16 Precepts for Acquiring Knowledge by St. Thomas Aquinas

The following is a letter St. Thomas Aquinas wrote to Brother John. Some say it is not an authentic letter of Aquinas, but nevertheless, based upon reading A.G. Sertillanges’ The Intellectual Life, this letter still serves a great purpose: 

 

“My Very Dear Brother,
Since you have asked me how you ought to study in order to amass the treasures of knowledge, listen to the advice which I am going to give you. As a mere stripling,

1. Advance up the streams, and do not all at once plunge into the deep: such is my caution, and your lesson.

I bid you to

2. Be cautious of speech,

3. Slower still in frequenting places of talk:

4. Embrace purity of conscience,

5. Pray unceasingly,

6. Love to keep to your cell if you wish to be admitted into the mystic wine-cellar.

7. Show yourself genial to all:

8. Pay no heed to other folk’s affairs:

9. Be not over-familiar with any person, because over-much familiarity breeds contempt, and gives occasion to distraction from study.

10. On no account mix yourself up with the sayings and the doings of persons in the outside world.

11. Most of all, avoid all useless visits, but try rather to walk constantly in the footsteps of good and holy men.

12. Never mind from whom the lesson drops, but

13. Commit to memory whatever useful advice may be uttered.

14. Give an account to yourself of your every word and action:

15. See that you understand what you hear, and never leave a doubt unsolved:

16. Lay up all you can in the storehouse of memory, as he does who wants to fill a vase. ‘Seek not the things which are beyond thee’.

Following these ways, you will your whole life long put forth and bear both branches and fruit in the vineyard of the Lord of Sabaoth. If you take these words to heart, you will attain your desire.”

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