This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

Traditional teaching and Western education

Perhaps some of the confusion surrounding this subject is due to the Western idea of learning, reflected in the present ‘educational system,’  which attempts to disseminate knowledge to all individuals without any reference to their aptitudes. Hidden in this mentality is a view of knowledge that only considers as legitimate that which can be understood by all. This is the mentality behind the experimentalism that drives its science, and in fact the whole scientific method is designed to ensure that no knowledge will be accepted as real unless it can be demonstrated and its findings reproduced by the dullest of minds. Such a view of learning has no room for hierarchy and no allowance for diversity of aptitude, because it does not allow for the existence of truths that are accessible to a minority only while remaining out of the reach of others, with the result being that the necessity of a guru is incomprehensible; the guru discerns and adapts his teaching precisely to those differences in personality and aptitude which it has become to supreme goal of Western education to get around. Such are perhaps the inevitable results of the dogma of equality with which the East is not so obsessed. Finally, it should be mentioned that there is great danger in presenting certain ideas to unqualified minds; and this is why it was the belief in both the East and the West until the modern period that no education superior to a mediocre half-education, since a tenuous grasp of many concepts leads directly to their misapplication. We will not enter here into a discussion of the many ways which subtle and complex ideas, once disseminated to the masses who cannot really be expected to fully comprehend the idea in question, either in its causes or its effects, leads directly to social chaos. In this way, a refusal to acknowledge the reality of ignorance among the masses leads to an amplification of its negative effects. Consider the daily advertisements in the United States for pharmaceutical products, which, knowing that their audience cannot really understand the merits of their product, appeal to viewers using nothing but shallow superficial images of smiles, sunshine, and sensuality, and they end by simply telling the viewer to ask their doctor to give them whatever drug is in question. That this is able to happen, and that it strikes no one as odd, is shocking to an outside observers; but it is the natural result of a point of view that pretends that everyone is on equal mental footing, and that any and all can pronounce on any subject, whether it be who should be the next president or what prescriptions they ought to take. On the other hand, if the obvious incompetence of the masses on most things were merely acknowledged without prejudice, this ignorance could be neutralized without harming anyone’s dignity. If we have digressed here somewhat it is only to emphasize the vastness of the separation between the Western and Eastern attitudes toward learning and the individual. In the West, it is insisted that everyone and everyone have all that is available, and whether or not they understand it is something that only comes into focus when chaos erupts, and this they usually try to solve by the further indiscriminate dissemination of information, and so on. In the East, it is insisted that what knowledge one has, however little that may be, is true and properly assimilated in such a way that the individual can really be said to possess its truth. Beyond this, if he were stuffed with conceptions he hardly understood or didn’t understand at all, he would be degraded, since this is to leave him more ignorant than he was at the start. To return to the guru, he is the opposite of the Protestant who would give anyone and everyone a bible to interpret according to his whim, which would immediately send him plummeting into darkness and confusion. This is to degrade the soul, not to ‘save’ it. It is the role of the guru to ensure that the spiritual pupil is not degraded, that ignorance is eliminated, insofar as it can be depending on the individual pupil.

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