THEOSOPHY, Vol. 16, No. 2, December, 1927 (Pages 56-58; Size: 11K)
CONSIDERATIONS ON KNOWLEDGE
THE most significant fact before the mind of man today is that common and indubitable one: Knowledge exists. Few are aware of its vast implications. Everybody has some Knowledge. Few realize that their own limited possession of the common fund is in itself the firm foundation of a bridge which they can in time erect, and upon which they can, if they will, pass over the twilight gorge of partial ignorance into the sunlit plains of all Knowledge.
For that which they already know is a part of All-Knowledge, a factor in the great summation, without which that great totality could not be summed -- just as a single drop of water is a part of all the water in the world, which without that single drop would be incomplete. And just as from the single drop the nature of all water can be realized, and by pursuing that drop its mergence with the great ocean can be ultimately grasped, so, by the pursuit and consequent expansion of the small Knowledge any being now has, its identity with All-Knowledge can be realized, and the being can at last merge himself consciously with All-Knowledge and draw upon that for the service of all other beings.
Considerations on Knowledge disclose curious student-astigmatisms. For instance, somebody will perhaps say, "All Knowledge exists." Unanimous agreement is at once apparent, but discussion soon develops the fact that many minds believe that Knowledge exists of itself -- as if tucked away quite neatly in beautifully wrapped packets in some remote storehouse of Nature!
Knowledge has no validity apart from Knowers. Knowledge is what Knowers know. It is permanent, for nobody can un-know what he knows, although at times his possessions may be temporarily not available. That Knowledge which any being has not yet made his own is, to be sure, an abstraction for him; but somebody knows it, else it would not be Knowledge.
Again, to the statement, "All Knowledge exists," is sometimes added, "Then, there must be the Knowers of that Knowledge." Once more, unanimous agreement. But students often think of such Knowers as omniscient Mahatmas(1), picturing them as personal gods with Jehovistic attributes. True it is that Mahatmas are the only All Knowers, but nobody is "omniscient" in the sense attributed to the personal god of Western Christianity. In the real sense of "all-knowingness" Mahatmas are omniscient; but so is every other being in his own degree, for the word merely symbolizes the limitless power-to-know which is common to all.
Few students think of Spirit as a synonym of All-Knowledge. While Spirit cannot be defined, yet, for the hazy and illogical conceptions so often held, more workable and more logical ones can be substituted, if they are not taken as final. Consider "Spirit" as the perfect Knowledge of all beings; "Matter" as their imperfections. Then it will be understood that Spirit is not something apart from any being, since all have some perfect Knowledge. Spirit includes the being, his Knowledge and his power-to-know. Such terms as "Alaya,"(2) "Universal Over-Soul,"(3) "Buddhi,"(4) and others, will have a more vital significance from this point of view.
Students are often baffled and disturbed by an attitude taken by some enquirers. Its common expression appears to be: "Very interesting, but of course nobody knows anything about these matters." Here again is an astigmatic perception. Bluntly analyzed, the position is this: "I don't know. I don't know anybody who does know. Therefore nobody knows. Therefore it cannot be known." Such is the implied reasoning behind the unconsciously egotistical position taken.
Its holder can be shown quite easily the reductio ad absurdum developed by a logical consideration of his position. Out of a gathering of fifty people, for instance, not one will perhaps of his own knowledge know some fact of Nature that has been demonstrated thousands of times. To be consistent with his assumed position, our baffling enquirer would be obliged to deny this proven fact. Again, it is impossible for the average person to know what another knows, in the sense of an immediate perception of the limits of that one's Knowledge. It is a paradoxical fact that most people at the same time know more and know less than they appear to know. Furthermore, the less wise are unable to perceive the mental content of those wiser than themselves; they have as yet no platform of assimilated experience upon which to stand for viewing the horizon of the other's Knowledge -- it has no existence, for them. They can see only what they can see. So also do the spiritually wise often veil themselves under common appearances, lest the less wise follow Them as persons instead of being stimulated to pursue Knowledge for its own sake.
The scientific mind is perhaps the most difficult one of all to awake to a perception of the fact that there is such a phenomenon as a being who knows, the possessor of pure Knowledge, ultimate Knowledge. Bound by the limitations of his adopted method -- the study of facts from outside in -- and aware of the existence of any number of charlatans and pretenders, the scientist is honestly blinded to the great truth that there is another kind of Knowledge than his -- which includes his, and an immensity more. Therefore he is unable even to imagine that there must be Those in the world in comparison to whom his beloved "authorities" are like children playing childish games.
He never dreams that many a student of Theosophy, moderately "educated" in an academic sense, knows of his own Knowledge many things which to Science are completely unknown, but which are essential to the solution of the existing problems of Science. For the highly educated and scientifically equipped students of Theosophy, who can meet him on his own ground and show him the incompleteness of the scientific method, the scientist more often than not feels a certain contempt. "They are cranks; what a pity! Religion is not Knowledge!" Certainly it is not, but Theosophy is not a religion!
All-Knowledge does exist. There are the Knowers of it. It is not the exclusive possession of any single being. All beings, high and low, are sharers in it, contributors to it. Just as there is one matter, common to all forms, and each form -- solid, liquid or gaseous -- a mere differentiation or conditioning of the one homogeneous substance, so there is one mind, or intelligence, or body of Knowledge, gained by beings of every grade as a result of observation and experience. The mind of each human being is a portion, or aspect, of this one Universal Mind. So also is there one Spirit, the power-to-perceive, together with its perfected perceptions -- themselves the product of the evolution of all beings throughout a beginningless and endless ex-istence. From this unitary point of view, which can be validly perceived and demonstrated by any intelligent person, the possible existence of beings who know can be logically reasoned.
Also follows the stupendous fact that any single being can in time become an All- Knower. His form of matter, physical and metaphysical, is merely a differentiation; therefore through it the primary can be found and perceived -- it is there! His mind is a unit of Universal Mind; therefore through it the "minds," or intelligence, of all -- the collectivity -- can be grasped. His Spirit is no more than his own expression of the One Spirit, however weak or partial, but indubitably the power-to-perceive, which is One.
To gain a realization of this, while still awake and housed in a physical body, is the purpose of existence in a stream of evolution like that connected with our Earth. Men who have done it know. Lesser men who are consciously and consistently working at it know partially. Those who deny its possibility will never know, until they set aside that denial and begin to admit: "It may be; I don't know that it is not so; it is worth looking into." Such a change of base, with actions proceeding therefrom, will ultimately, in an honest Universe, bring them into contact with Those Who Know, who may then wake them to further perceptions.
FOUR (4) FOOTNOTES LISTED BELOW:
COMPILER'S NOTE: I added these footnotes; they were not in the article. If any of them don't paint an accurate enough picture, or are incorrect, I hope the Editors of THEOSOPHY magazine will spot them and point the inaccuracies out to me, so that I can make the necessary corrections.
(1) "Mahatma" means Great Soul. A Great Soul is also known as a Master of Wisdom, a Great Adept, etc. He or she got there through self-induced and self-devised efforts, as we all can.
Back to text.
(2) "Alaya" means the Universal Soul: the universal underlying essence, the basis or root of all things in the Cosmos.
Back to text.
(3) "Universal Over-Soul" is another way of saying what is found above for "Alaya".
Back to text.
(4) "Buddhi" means Intuition.
back to text.