Much Reading, Little Thought
The Path, June, 1890
The wise man sagely said that of making books there is no end. If true in his day, it is the same now. Among members of the Theosophical Society the defects are widespread, of reading too many of the ever coming books and too little thought upon the matter read. Anyone who is in a position to see the letters of inquiry received by those in the Society who are prominent, knows that the greater number of the questions asked are due to want of thought, to the failure on the part of the questioners to lay down a sure foundation of general principles.
It is so easy for some to sit down and write a book containing nothing new save its difference of style from others, that the pilgrim theosophist may be quickly bewildered if he pays any attention. This bewilderment is chiefly due to the fact that no writer can express his thoughts in a way that will be exactly and wholly comprehended by every reader, and authors in theosophic literature are only, in fact, trying to present their own particular understanding of old doctrines which the readers would do much better with if they devoted more time to thinking them out for themselves.
In the field of every day books there is so much light reading that the superficial habit of skimming is plainly everywhere apparent, and it threatens to show itself in theosophical ranks.
So well am I convinced there are too many superfluous books in our particular field, that, if I had a youth to train in that department, I should confine him to the Bhagavad-Gita, and the Upanishads, and the Secret Doctrine for a very long time, until he was able to make books for himself out of those, and to apply the principles found in them to every circumstance and to his own life and thought.
Those theosophists who only wish to indulge in a constant variety of new theosophical dishes will go on reading all that appears, but the others who are in earnest, who know that we are here to learn and not solely for our pleasure, are beginning to see that a few books well read, well analysed, and thoroughly digested are better than many books read over once. They have learned how all that part of a book which they clearly understand at first is already their own, and that the rest, which is not so clear or quite obscure, is the portion they are to study, so that it also, if found true, may become an integral part of their constant thought.