study every day

Study Every Day, Every Thing, Every Way

“You study every day; often when you least think you are studying. You study as you walk the street in repose, and look into peoples’s faces, and are interested and amused by them. You are then learning more and more of the different varieties of human nature. Men and women then are books to you. You open and read them. You learn to recognize in an instant, by the look on people’s faces, how they feel and what are their dispositions. Involuntarily, you are classifying men and women, and putting them down in your mind according to their characters. One specimen so recognized serves as the type for one thousand, for a race. You set down this man as no gentleman, from the manner in which he looks at a lady. You see in this overdressed women the low pride of mere money. You are studying human nature.

“Knowledge of human nature has a commercial value in dollars and cents. When you are accomplished in it, you may tell in five seconds whether you can trust a person or not. Trust in people is the corner stone of all business success. Even thieves must trust to confederates in order successfully to complete a burglary.” ~Prentice Mulford

Study Every Day

While our formal education may end at some point, we nonetheless continue to learn. As Mr. Mulford says, we study every day, often without being aware of it. He delves primarily into the study of human nature or the human psyche, but only on the material level. Mulford is not a spiritual teacher, so he doesn’t mention that side of it, though that is even more important than studying the physical level.

Study People

The most common way that we study every day is by studying people, as Mulford notes. We probably don’t even realize we are doing it, but we are. We look at their faces, at their walk, at how they dress, etc. Opinions are formed of total strangers based on these observations. We also form opinions of ourselves when we do this.

I remember when I was a child that my parents warned me and my siblings to stay away from Puerto Ricans because they all carried switchblades and were all prone to violence. This is not true, of course, but the only Puerto Rican’s they had ever seen were the ones they saw on the news, so based on those limited observations, they formed an opinion of all those people.

In school, especially High School, we notice that the cool jock guy is wearing Boop brand jeans and they look great on him. We don’t know, or even care, that the cool guy’s father works for Boop jeans and gets them at a discount. If the cool guy is wearing them, we have to get Boop jeans so we can be cool also. With the girls, the same would apply for a skirt style, or a shoe style. We don’t think of this as learning or studying, but it is. Unfortunately, it is largely a study of opinions, not facts.

Study Things

People are not the only things we study every day, we study animals, plants, buildings, just about everything in our environment. Yet often we are unaware of things except on a subconscious level.

I recall some years ago when a street near where I lived was closed for a few weeks while a bridge on it was being repaired. From the area where I walked my dog, I could see this road and the sign on it that said (Road closed ahead, turn around). While I watched, five cars came down that road and only one of them turned around. The other four drove on only to reach the blocked road at the bridge and have to turn around and drive back half a mile to the nearest intersection.

But we do study things and learn from them. Unfortunately, we often learn the wrong things from the wrong sources. Instead of learning how to be more civilized by studying more advanced people, we look at wild animals and start behaving like them. That might be acceptable if we were looking at deer and rabbits, but that is rarely the case. People look at bears and tigers and think they should behave as these wild animals do. The truth is, unless you work as a zoo or animal preserve, you only see a small part of their behavior and make choices based on that. On top of it, most don’t understand that the animals are getting their behavior from us. We set the patterns that they follow.

Spiritual Study

The most important way to study every day is through spiritual study, but only a small fraction of us are doing that. Our spirits and souls are immortal, and therefore more important than our mortal bodies. Yet people who spend much time caring for their bodies do little for the spirit. We need to look at spiritual people and see how they behave. We need to learn from spiritual beings as well. It is just as important to study angels and beings of light every day as it is to study the world around us. The reason most of us don’t do that is that we have not awakened our spiritual faculties that are dormant when we come into the material world. This is not our fault. Few of us are ever told that these faculties are dormant and must be awakened. Even fewer believe that when they are told. But if they were to study every day those who do awaken their spirit and soul and grow in spiritual awareness and consciousness, they would see how important it is for all of humanity. Mulford says knowledge has a monetary value, and that is often true, but spiritual knowledge has a spiritual value that is worth far more than money. So study the world every day, study people every day, and study the spiritual every day.

art of study

Art of Study is Not Just Memorizing

“There is an art of study. We were told in youth to study. We were never told how to study, or, in other words, how to get ideas. Committing to memory words, sentences, and rules, is not getting ideas. … If you commit to memory a great many words and sentences, you are simply over training a part or function of your mind. …

“Words are not ideas. They are only the signs or means by which, through the sense of sight or sound, a printed word or spoken word may represent an idea to the mind. …

“The more that is committed to memory, the greater the burden placed on the department of memory. … The memory is useful only to hold what is grasped by the spirit. No amount of book-learning can teach a man to sail a boat well. He must educate himself. When he learns through practice and many failures that the rudder must be kept in a certain position to counteract the force of the wind, his memory at last holds what such practice has taught him. … Did you learn to dance by first committing to memory the rules for the guidance of your steps? No, you received the idea from someone else who could dance. You absorbed that idea or thought.

“Every person, to learn quickly, must learn to throw himself in a certain mood of mind. That is the mood of serenity and repose.” ~Prentice Mulford

Memorizing is not Studying

If you are learning to be a carpenter, memorizing the names of the tools used by a carpenter may be helpful. Yet even after you have memorized all those names, you still don’t know how to be a carpenter. A parrot could have done the same, yet there is no chance that it will become a carpenter. There are times when memorizing is useful, and it is often a good first step to learning a new skill, but practice and experience are necessary for almost every skill except winning a spelling bee. And even with a spelling bee, memorizing the spelling of many words doesn’t mean you will be able to handle the pressure of being on stage or competing with other spellers.

Words are not Ideas

Many people would take offense at this claim by Mulford, but with few exceptions, he is correct. I think the only time a word could be said to be an idea is when something new is discovered or invented and they are trying to give it a name. Even then, once the thing has a name, the name is not the thing, not the idea, but a way of communicating the idea. That communication only works, however, if everyone agrees on what the word means. There are a lot of communication failures because different people have different ideas of what a word means. A simple example is that greed, which used to be a negative thing to almost all people, has somehow become a positive attribute to many.

The function of words is to form an image in the mind. It is that image which is the idea, not the word that represents it. Continue reading “Art of Study is Not Just Memorizing”

incorruptible light, Spiritual Light

Higher Consciousness has Practical Value

“Here the practical man, who has been strangely silent during the last stages of our discourse [on spiritual development], shakes himself like a terrier which has achieved dry land again after a bath; and asks … ‘What is the use of all this?’
“’You have introduced me,’ he says further, ‘to some curious states of consciousness, interesting enough in their way; and to a lot of peculiar emotions, many of which are no doubt most valuable to poets and so on. But it is all so remote from daily life. … How… is it all going to help me?’
“Well, put upon the lowest plane, this new way of attending to life—this deepening and widening of outlook—may at least be as helpful to you as many things to which you have unhesitatingly consecrated much time;” ~Evelyn Underhill

The Practical value of Higher Consciousness

What Ms. Underhill wrote some decades ago is even more true today. While there are those who are beginning to recognize the value of spiritual development and achieving higher levels of consciousness, there are a larger number even more completely devoted to materialism who see no value at all in such things. While spiritual schools and spiritual teachers naturally want you to value such development for spiritual purposes, there is considerable value in it to be found in the mundane world of matter and materialism.

A little fact I read some years ago (I don’t remember where) says that while most of us expect business leaders and executives to act based on facts, studies, statistics, and other scientific methods, a large number of them actually rely in making their decisions on intuition. What’s more, those who rely on intuition to help them make their final decisions are more often correct then those who rely entirely on empirical science. And if you are not one of those people who has a strong intuition, you needn’t despair: developing your spiritual side will give you that intuition.

Underhill points out that we are willing to spend considerable time and money on other activities, particularly a formal education, yet we can learn more from spiritual studies and higher consciousness. Here is another part of that; developing our spiritual side and achieving higher states of consciousness can actually help us in those studies by improving memory, concentration, and the ability to distinguish truth from opinions, or complete nonsense. That spiritual development might also help you make better decisions regarding the fields of study you choose to engage in.

You may also find your physical health improving as a result of these studies; not because they improve your physical health directly (though they may to a small degree), but because they make you thing better. In thinking better, you will realize that eating should about supplying your bodies nutritional needs and change your eating habits accordingly. You may also feel a need to start exercising regularly if you hadn’t been doing so. If you think of the great spiritual leaders throughout the ages, you will find that few of them were lazy or significantly overweight (I know Buddha is sometimes depicted as such, but I think the real man was not fat).

In terms of success on the material level, the person who has developed higher consciousness may not be particularly wealthy, but they will rarely be poor. Those studies will intentionally turn you away from materialism, but you don’t need to give up all creature comforts. Psychic Edgar Cayce was known to tell his assistants not to worry about money, God would provide, and in his case, that attitude worked. Whenever he got to a point where his helpers and family were afraid bill payments would be missed, an unexpected check would arrive from someone Cayce had helped in the past.

So yes, development of our spirit, soul, and Higher Consciousness has practical value as well as spiritual.

Meeting Christ & God

Communion With the Spiritual Worlds

“So we will go straight to St. Teresa, and inquire of her what was the method by which she taught her daughters to gather themselves together, to capture and hold the attitude most favorable to communion with the spiritual world. She tells us … that the process is a gradual one. The method to be employed is a slow, patient training of material which the license of years has made intractable. …
“The real mystical life, which is a truly practical life, begins at the beginning; not with supernatural acts and ecstatic apprehensions, but with the normal faculties of the normal man. ‘I do not require of you,’ says Teresa to her pupils, ‘to form great and curious consideration in your understanding, I require of you no more than to look.’
“It might be thought that such looking at the spiritual world, simply, intensely, without cleverness, … was the essence of contemplation itself; and indeed one of the best definition has described that as a ‘loving sight,’ a ‘peering into heaven with the ghostly eye.’” ~Evelyn Underhill

The two major things St. Teresa says is generally accepted in all real spiritual schools. First, becoming spiritual, becoming enlightened, is a process, not a single event (with a few, very rare, exceptions). It is a process that is gradual and takes years to accomplish. You don’t become enlightened by simply joining a church or spiritual school anymore than you become rich by buying the latest issue of Forbes magazine. You have to follow the teachings of the spiritual school regularly and you will progress gradually until you can truly claim to be enlightened.

The second major point is found in the phrase, “I require of you no more than to look”. What that simply means is that you must approach spiritual enlightenment with an open mind. If you have too many strong, preconceived notions of what God is, what the spiritual worlds are like, what is really behind the illusion of matter, etc. you can’t be forming an image in your mind of what you believe those things to be and expect them to be replaced with the true image. As the Oriental sages put it, you must empty the cup before you can fill it again. If you have a cup already full of water, and then try to fill it with wine, you will simply spill the wine on the ground and what remains in the cup will be almost all water. Clearly, you should empty the water first before you try to fill the cup with wine. Even if you are not entirely successful at dumping out the water (false beliefs), the more you do empty out, the more wine you get in the cup. So all real spiritual schools and spiritual teachers encourage students to have an open mind about everything and to study widely to help clear out those false or distorted beliefs. Continue reading “Communion With the Spiritual Worlds”