From The Manual: A Philosopher’s Guide to Life (a rewording of Epictitus by Sam Torode):
The first topic of philosophy is the practical application of principles. For instance, learning and living the principle, “Do not lie.”
The second topic is understanding the reasons behind the principles. For instance, “Reasons why we should not lie.”
The third topic is verifying the principles through logic. “What are the consequences of lying? Do these consequences confirm our reasons for not lying? Or are our reasons contradictory?”
Each topic follows from the one before it, with the first—practical application of principles—being the essential foundation.
In most schools of philosophy, however, they spend all their time on the second and third subjects—arguments and proofs—and neglect entirely the first.
They can explain in academic and scholarly terms exactly why lying is wrong—yet they routinely lie.
Philosophy is for living, not just learning.
The sequence is golden. All of the teachers I have listened to have emphasized the importance of personal verification. Don’t believe. Verify for yourself.
Verify or disprove by doing.
It’s like C. said (though not in these words). Stopping drinking is not the point. The point is to help you stop drinking long enough so your mind is opened — just a crack — and you can hear something else. Then and only then does progress start.
Start with the action. Live the sequence that Epictitus describes. What’s interesting to me is that the things you learn in the later steps are things you could not reason toward without taking the very first step in this sequence.
If, before stopping drinking, you try to give reasons to do so . . . you will be grievously wrong. Perhaps fatally so. The true reasons are deep, hidden.
This is perhaps what they mean by esoteric wisdom. Those that have eyes, let them see. Those that have ears, let them hear. You can’t see the hidden reasons for or against a particular proposition until you first develop the capability for perception.
Sometimes, metaphorically, it’s easy to see that you should not dive off the diving board. There’s no water in the pool.
But other times, you have to make a commitment and go down the road a bit to see whether there is something of value there.
And as Anderson said, you can’t make a wrong turn. The guys used to argue with him about that. They were convinced every choice was momentous, deep, and irreversible.
Of course, some are. Avoid absorbing barriers. If you don’t, you’re playing Darwin’s game.
But assuming you’re perceptive enough to avoid death (literally or metaphorically) then it really is true that you can’t make a wrong turn.
Everyone knew the road coming out of the monastery. It ended in a T intersection. Left turn and you’re headed home. Right turn and you’re not.
Anderson pointed out that if you made a right turn instead of a left, sooner or later you would figure it out and turn around. And maybe something unexpected would have happened to your benefit. If you are living in present tense what does it matter if you drove north for 10 miles instead of south?
Put yourself in the game to see if it’s worth playing the game. Put yourself in the game to learn the lessons of being in the game. E.g., running. What I get out of running now is not the physical endurance or feeling of physical well being. Yes that is there. But it’s so much more than that. The inside man has changed.