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Lost Knowledge: A Story

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Once, long ago, a group of people traveled the world in search of the great spiritual knowledge of every culture. After some time, they came back to their homeland and built a school to share everything that they had accumulated from a lifetime of travels. However, the school itself was somewhat secretive. This was for two reasons:

1) The knowledge itself was powerful, culminating in a particular experience that could be easily misunderstood and misapplied if one did not have a strong sense of virtue at their foundation. A test was given to potential pupils as a sort of vetting process, to first make sure that they were not likely to harm themselves or others with that knowledge.

Further, if someone was somehow able to separate the lessons from the school, they would be hard pressed to fully understand them without guidance from those who were already well-versed in the curriculum. Once someone became a student, information was given gradually and in steps that carefully built upon one another so that they could fully assimilate it, and would thus be fully prepared for the experience that would be sure to follow once they had finished the curriculum.

In other words, studies were intended to facilitate a particular understanding, and if someone was not healthy of mind and body, then the experience that resulted from that understanding could very well lead to psychosis, or even death, regardless of the peaceful and encouraging environment in which it was shared.

Therefore, not every student was accepted, and some became very angry because of it. They cursed the school and called the students snobs, unaware that they were actually being turned away for their own safety, not because they were considered unworthy to be a part of it in any way. They were always welcome to come back and try the entry test again at a future time, but most were so prideful that they did not.

2) The land in which the school was located was controlled by a despotic ruler. The ideals of self-empowerment and self-responsibility that the school espoused often lead to suspicion about their activity. The students had absolutely no desire to overthrow the ruler through open rebellion, and did their best to uphold the just laws of the land out of respect for the ruler's station, out of care for their fellow citizens, and out of the love of virtue itself.

So, although the students wanted to share their knowledge with everyone, including the despot, this secretive set-up served as a necessary compromise for both the time and place in which the school existed. Those who graduated from the school would often move on to make their own schools to spread the knowledge far and wide.

The operation of this school, and the ones that flowed from it, continued for some time. However, with each passing year, the knowledge that they shared became quite complex and varied. Some students who were still early in their studies started to bicker over details, losing sight of the aims of the school itself. Some of the schools started to crumble from within.

On top of this, those who were turned away would often bring the existence of the schools to the attention of the despot out of spite. Unable to divulge the purpose and teachings of the schools to a fearful tyrant who might misuse it, many of the students of the schools were persecuted, pushing all of the schools deeper and deeper underground.

Dissatisfied with the situation, some schools defected. They became very lax with whom they shared the teachings, and became careless about the order in which they were given. People started to use the information for personal gain, selling off "secret knowledge" to others who had no idea about what the schools actually taught or what they originally stood for. Therefore, the despot eventually got ahold of the teachings despite the best efforts of those who were true to them.

Being a very intelligent person, the despot generally understood what the teachings were intended to do (i.e.: completely unlock the potential of the individual and bring all people into complete harmony with one another), but rather than personally embrace that knowledge and share it with others, the despot wanted to keep this knowledge hidden.

If all people would eventually reach a state where no one could tell another what to do, nor hide any wrongdoing from others, the despot's rule would never be possible. One couldn't manipulate through fear or create division by fomenting hatred through the spreading of ignorance and prejudice.

Already driven mad with power, the despot destroyed all of the schools still visible to the public and started killing students en masse. The servants of the despot were commanded to burn their books and publicly torture students to make "examples" of them to others who might be caught teaching the same kinds of ideas.

The persecution was severe, but not total. Some sincere people slipped through the cracks and were still able to share the teachings with others in secret. Seeing that somehow the teachings were still spreading, the despot changed tactics.

Rather than attempt to utterly destroy, the despot would alter the teachings just enough to have the semblance of truth but ultimately lead to confusion. Therefore, people would be drawn to the truthful aspects, but the despot could choose who they wanted to have the knowledge and how much of it by making themselves the intermediary between a clever fiction and a useful fact.

It is not hard to see what happened over time because of all of this...Much of the original knowledge became lost, and that which still existed was fragmentary and/or jumbled up into an incoherent mass.

While it is probably obvious to some extent, why do I feel the need to tell this story? I tell it mainly because it makes clear some general patterns that have occurred all over the world over and over again throughout recorded history, things which have kept us from collectively understanding certain truths inherent to many spiritual teachings.

For example, while the exact details may differ from situation to situation, it gives plausible explanations for many curious events within the history of Christianity:

• How the Christians went from being an obscure and sometimes persecuted group in Rome, to the state religion under Constantine (was this move political or altruistic?)

• Why the Roman Catholic Church split from the Eastern Orthodox church in the "Great Schism", and where certain ideological differences came from (e.g.: much of the doctrine within the Eastern Orthodox version of Christianity revolves around attempting to induce a kind of enlightenment through "Contemplative Prayer" which is equivalent to the use of meditations to bring about "Theosis", or personal union with God)

• Why the Roman Catholic Church persecuted various groups throughout its history (e.g.: Gnostics, Cathars, Friends of God, Waldensians, Brethren of the Free Spirit, etc.), all of which seem to place a high value on mystical experience and have the idea that one is capable of having a personal revelation of God without the intervention of a "church authority"

• Why the Roman Catholic Church even has a banned books list (or "Index Librorum Prohibitorum") to begin with

• Why the "Protestant Reformation" happened

...etc. etc.

This list is not given to demonize the Catholic Church, to pass judgement on anyone, nor to say that everyone who is labeled a "Catholic" believes the same things or practices Christianity in the same way. Labels often have a nasty habit of becoming prejudices. There are good people with constructive intentions and behaviors within every ideology and organization. The patterns that I am talking about apply to many groups and people throughout every time and place, even though the names and faces may continually change. Nothing is static and people are complex, continually changing for better or for worse. However, we can use what we already know to help us learn what we do not yet know, not by forcing one type of information to fit into another context, but by making useful correspondences that enrich our understanding of both.

To give a few more examples, the patterns within the story also give plausible explanations for:

• Why the Pythagoreans (and the practice of other Greco-Roman Mysteries generally died out)

• How some Freemasons engineered one of the most self-governed societies on Earth (i.e.: the U.S.), while other Freemasons treat the group merely as an "old boys' club", and some even use it to hide nefarious dealings (e.g.: the assassinations associated with the P2 lodge)

• How our modern educational system eventually became a means for churning out workers rather than empowering individuals with practical skills that are vital in living life (e.g.: mental-emotional self-management, goal setting and planning, hygiene, nutrition and exercise, ethics, effective communication, etc.)

...There are so many examples. Again, I share this merely to help each person cut through the morass of noise by sharing some ideas that have been useful to me. The main point I would like to make is: The core truth of every spiritual teaching is One, and further, that the highest inspirations and aspirations of every individual are also One.

The biggest stumbling block in being able to personally experience it is our own identifications. Thankfully, even just a little bit of new information can completely alter one's opinions about a subject.

Thank you for reading! ♥