Why is it that the ancient philosophers and spiritual thinkers refused to write down their ideas? Socrates never wrote a book, the Buddha, Jesus, nor Confucius either. Perhaps it was their oral tradition where the transmission of knowledge happened through communication and socialization.
The constant discourse, dialogues, and storytelling that we contemporaries reflect upon and study rigorously today show the evolution that happens based on the interaction, dialectical methods, and emotional change of temperament.
Words are written to be preserved forever. The old saying of “written in stone” suggests that when something is written or engraved in stone, it cannot be easily altered or erased. In modern day terms, it is easier than ever to alter or erase words. But what is not guaranteed is that someone will re-visit writing that has been modified or even have the ability to recover something that has been removed.
Whenever I write, I find myself evolving in my views, values, and beliefs. What may have been written years ago may have an ounce of resemblance of who I am today. Or it may stand the test of time representing the staying power of the ideas I choose to hold close to my heart. I’ll see the glaring flaws of my past writing. The typos, grammatical errors, and poor choice of words to describe certain feelings or phenomena. Is it my place to go back and alter these pieces? Absolutely not.
So why did these figures choose to not write down anything although many of them had the technology to do so and devout followers who would be willing to do it for them? Socrates had Plato past his time, Jesus had his followers and disciples after his death. Confucius had students and disciples following his death. The Buddha had followers and Buddhist monks after his passing.
Perhaps they all believed in the power of interactive discourse leading to one seeking truth and knowledge. Maybe they all believed in the rejection of dogmatism in the sense that no individual can claim absolutely knowledge or definitive answers. How about a sense of knowing that someone who was transformed through their teachings would take on the responsibility? We will never know.
Historians will likely argue about the culture and times these figures lived. That writing materials were hard to come by and literacy was not accessible. That only scribes, scholars, or religious leaders possessed the ability. While this may be the case, it seems to me that one can only understand these teachings if one has been ethically or spiritually transformed through them. I think they did it on purpose and many philosophers followed their footsteps to keep the tradition alive.