Adventures in Text reading

The other night in our Teacher of Pupils training, we reviewed a study technique advocated by Allen Watson, called the superficial read-through. This is where you read through the entire Text, or a chapter, or even a section, fairly quickly, as a preparation for a more serious study. You don’t skim it; you read every word. But you don’t pause to try to work out things you don’t understand. You simply take in everything you can without extra effort.

To be really honest, I’ve never done that before. It seems entirely alien to me. When I have something to read, I just want to read it. I don’t want to do an initial read-through in preparation for really reading it. In fact, I rarely even look at the table of contents, and often skip past the foreword and even the introduction.

But the more we talked about this method in class, the more I saw the wisdom in it. So the other day, I decided to do my morning Text reading that way. I was reading a portion of the Urtext, in what is now Chapter 4. I did my superficial read-through, which took just a few minutes. And then I went back and read it more slowly and seriously.

What happened was that as I began my slow study of the section, in the very first paragraph, I suddenly saw how the whole thing was a unity. The section itself seemed to cover many topics: the ego’s obsession with control, the ego’s confusion of body impulses with divine impulses, the ego’s identification with, yet hatred of, the body, the need to ask certain key questions, alchemy, perpetual motion machines, cryonics, confusion of sex and aggression, therapy.

But what I saw there at the beginning of my slow study was that it was all about one thing: the ego’s refusal to allow into consciousness the sane judgment and especially the key questions that would spell its undoing. Suddenly I realized everything in the section was about that single thing. And it’s true—that is the idea behind every one of the separate topics covered in the section.

So, at least for now, I’m sticking with Allen’s superficial read-through technique–not for the whole Text, but for the sections I’m reading. In the days since, the results haven’t been as dramatic as on the first day. But clearly it enhances comprehension and doesn’t take much time. What can I lose?