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The True Nature and Meaning of Learning
By Charles Mitchley
The publication of the Toltec Aphorisms (The Toltec Teachings - Volume VI, by Théun Mares) is a milestone in Toltec history. It also marks an especially poignant moment in the history of humanity; because, even though compilation of the aphorisms began aeons ago, this is the first time that they have ever been recorded in written form in their entirety.
But to begin at the beginning: ever since the dawn of humanity on this planet (as we have come to know humanity today), there have existed men and women charged with safeguarding and transmitting the fundamental truths of the One Life. These people were called Men and Women of Knowledge; or Toltecs, in the Old Tongue. In addition to their role as teachers and leaders, Toltecs also used their abilities as seers to expand their knowledge and their awareness throughout the progression of evolution.
In our earliest days - even before the development of the spoken word - these truths were conveyed in their essence through ideograms. Later, when humans had developed a verbal language, the truths were encapsulated in the form of aphorisms; skilfully designed to reveal layer upon layer of truth, depending upon the level of awareness of the recipient. Over time, as the knowledge of Toltec seers has grown, so has the database of aphorisms. At no stage, however, have the aphorisms ever been transmitted in anything other than their purely oral form.
What then, from a Toltec perspective, does it mean to seek real knowledge - and not just the type of learning that can be found in books? It is in connection with awareness that a fundamental principle in relation to the process of learning, through the use of aphorisms, becomes revealed; namely, "The Toltec aphorisms serve to guide us to a deeper insight in how to master our awareness. Thus all aphorisms have been designed to be both springboards into the unknown, as well as beacon lights within the unknown."
However, as the seeker progresses on this path - over and above the fact that knowledge for Toltecs is experiential - the question that begins to arise is: "What really is the true nature and meaning of learning?" or, more precisely: "How do we corroborate the subjective reality, when the only reality we can measure it against is our perception of the objective reality to which we bear witness by virtue of being alive, for is it not this very perception we are questioning when we set out to learn?"
As Théun explains: "This difficulty in learning is a conundrum for which there is no logical solution, other than to start the process of learning from the premise that whatever we experience within life - that is, whatever we perceive to be factual - is not necessarily the objective reality to which we bear witness, but merely the subjective reality which causes us to look upon our experience as being the factual reality we are dealing with. This, however, does not presuppose that the subjective reality which arises from experience is any less true than the objective reality we are witnessing. Instead it serves to confirm that the subjective reality, being dependent as it is upon our perception, is what we are experiencing, whereas the objective reality, which exists independently of our perception of it, must at best be witnessed without judgment, until such time as we have gained the necessary knowledge with which to bridge the gap that exists between our subjective experience and an objective reality that transcends the limitations of perception. It is this gap between our perception and the objective reality being witnessed that instils in us, the Observers, the desire to gain the needed skill with which to fill the gap between the subjective and the objective.
"If we, as the Observers, are to fill the gap existing between the subjective and the objective, then it is vital that we bear in mind that the subjective, by definition, implies the purely personal, whereas the objective, also by definition, implies that which is transpersonal, and therefore existing independently of the purely personal nature of our perception. It follows that the Observer is not only the point at which perception is being assembled in relation to the experience of the Observer, but that for there to be any experience at all, the Observer must of necessity also be the catalyst that brings into existence the experience he is having of the objective reality to which he bears witness. Consequently, although the Observer starts off by being an impartial witness to life around him, the moment he starts to interact with the world he has the choice of either seeing himself as being the victim of circumstance, or else seeing himself as being the catalyst that causes objective reality to start imposing itself upon the subjective reality he has created according to his perception. The first option is clearly antithetical to learning anything of real value, which means that the true Scholar has no option other than to see himself as being the creator of his reality.
"Once we are clear on this much, it becomes perfectly possible to acquire skill in the technique of learning, for all that is required in order to gain this skill, is to remember that the Observer is both the Witness of objective reality, as well as the Experimenter directing the process entailed in learning how to relate perception of that objective reality to the reality underlying his subjective experience of it. This is the theory, and if one adheres to the theory it appears that this should be a relatively simple exercise to accomplish, given the required time and the due diligence. However, in practice it is not quite as simple as the theory would have us believe, for although gaining the skill to learn is undoubtedly within the grasp of any man or woman, achieving this skill is nonetheless the task of a lifetime. The reason for this, as Toltecs have discovered in mapping out the process of learning, is that acquiring skill in learning entails conquering seven distinct areas of expertise."
The Aphorisms have been compiled by Théun in such a manner that reflects these seven areas of expertise or stages of learning, thus enabling seekers of learning to answer their own questions as they progress through the different stages of the pathway to acquiring true knowledge.
Never before has there been such a wide array of analyzes of our problems as today. As a result, there is at least a consensus that we do indeed have problems. However, there is precious little knowledge both as to how to solve these problems, and also as to the true causes of those problems. In short, there is plenty of diagnosis, but no real cure. In what ways do the Toltec Teachings offer a practical cure or solution?
Behavior: The roots of so many of our problems lie in behavior. The Toltec teachings contain a huge body of knowledge related to behavior and its causes. Through this body of knowledge, we can help trace the true causes of behavior, and offer effective ways to bring about change.
Thinking: At the base of so much behavior lie thought-patterns. Therefore, the thinking that has given rise to the behavior also needs to be addressed. Helping people to understand and then to change their thinking is a major part of Théun's work with the Toltec teachings.
Feeling: An important element in changing our behavior is to discover why we feel the way we do about ourselves and the world around us. Then, in learning how to handle our emotions with skill, we can respond intelligently to life, rather than reacting in our accustomed manner.