The basics of spiritual living are delightfully obvious: Turn to the Lord and obey the Two Great Commandments and the Ten Commandments, and you will do pretty well. It can seem like the more spiritual knowledge is just clutter that distracts us from living well. We’ve all had the experience of overthinking an issue that was actually very clear, and it can appear at times that lots of religious knowledge can lead to that.
The Lord tells us that the hells can use the general knowledge we have to lead us astray: “Unless it is filled out with less general and more specific truths it can be of use to evils and falsities. But the more it is filled out with truths, the less it can have that kind of use.” (Arcana Coelestia 7112). What is even worse, the evil spirits use simple, well-intentioned people who have only general knowledge of goodness and truth to lead others astray (Arcana Coelestia 7137)! Nobody wants to be the cause of others’ unhappiness.
Let’s consider a simple truth: The Lord wants me to be happy. That is a true and powerful general statement of truth. And yet I would guess that even as you read it you were able to see how dangerous it could be if taken at face value without much thought. The hells could easily use it to get us to think that doing some evil thing would make us happy, so the Lord couldn’t have meant that we weren’t supposed to do that. And of course since others do it and they seem to be happy, maybe it’s not so bad after all.
It would not take much more knowledge to say that the Lord wants us to be happy in the long term rather than the short term, that He wants us to be happy in a way that does not hurt anyone else, and that all His rules are rules for happiness, even if we can’t see in the moment how they lead to happiness. Most of our challenges would be more subtle than that. But this simple example illustrates why we need to keep learning, especially in the areas we really care about. Being a spiritual person does not mean being nice without much thought. It means striving to become nicer than we are now. And the pathway to doing that is turning to the Lord’s Word and learning more of His truth so we can see the pathway He lays out to become the kindest most loving person we can be.