THEOSOPHY, Vol. 51, No. 4, February, 1963
(Pages 92-93; Size: 6K)

YOUTH FORUM

BELIEF AND KNOWLEDGE

[Article number (4) in this Q&A Department]

MORE books are being printed and read today than at any other time in history; yet despite (or perhaps, because of) this enormous impulse towards scientific and literary awareness, there has seldom, if ever, been a more poignant sense of alienation from genuine, first-hand knowledge. We hold innumerable beliefs about almost every subject, but what do we really know?

Often, of course, we fool ourselves into thinking that "common knowledge" is our own knowledge. For instance, everyone "knew" during the Middle Ages that Eden was situated at the source of the Euphrates, just as everyone today "knows" that man has descended from the apes. But facts, even if true, are not satisfying to a man's whole being unless he can in some deep way see their truth and significance. Job was not comforted by his friends' sophistic defenses of God's actions. His own belief was far deeper than theirs -- he realized that the very attempt to defend the actions of the Almighty was impious and presumptuous -- yet despite the strength of his faith he had to see God for himself before he could know from the depths of his soul that his punishment was not an injustice.

Theosophically, the story of Job has been interpreted as a man's initiation into the realm of Adepts, and such an interpretation is indeed suggestive, for it makes one wonder about the depth of one's own knowledge of the basic principles, and cautions one against being glib in his explanation of his philosophy to others. The false comforters argued that God is just, and that therefore Job's sufferings must be the result of sinfulness. Correspondingly, Theosophists must beware of the tendency to offer as "comfort" such words as, "It is your own Karma." Regardless of whether or not such words are true, they will only aggravate a man's sufferings unless he comes to see their truth and relevance. Nor is it enough that he see the truth intellectually. The intellect can be twisted to "prove" or "disprove" any concept in the world. A man must have a soul vision of the truth before his belief is transformed into knowledge. "God" must appear out of a whirlwind and speak to him. Until then, nothing is certain, except, perhaps, the simple awareness of existence.

But one keeps on reading the books, in hope of finding some sort of second-hand enlightenment. Perhaps the greatest work of literature, from this point of view, would be one that inspires a person to stop reading for a while, and to reflect. Krishna asks Arjuna what he has to do with "all this knowledge," implying, perhaps, that a man cannot cope with more knowledge than he has the moral power to use. The striving to "live the good life," then, seems the best groundwork for the eventual attainment of spiritual certainties. And yet, though great self-discipline is necessary preparation, it seems equally evident that one must be highly "involved in Mankind," if he is ever to develop that inner stillness, that sense of receptive expectancy, that calmness, through which alone the spirit may be heard.


COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:

TWO KINDS OF KNOWLEDGE

We know that most of the universe is composed of things about which we can acquire knowledge but which cannot know us, and that this one-sided relation enables us to manipulate them as we wish, but collectively, we have not yet drawn the obvious moral, namely, that if nothing in creation is responsible for our existence then we are responsible for all created things. Most individual scientists, certainly all the best ones, have been and still are contemplatives who rejoice in their discoveries, not for the practical value they may have, but because it is a joy and wonder to know that things are as they are. Unfortunately their innocent indifference to practical values has made them the slaves of that faceless fabulously wealthy Leviathan called Science which has no concern whatever for the right of anything or anyone to exist except its anonymous power that acknowledges no limits, and that has a scarcely disguised contempt for those whom it employs. 


--W. H. AUDEN

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