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God's Picture-Puzzle (Part 2)

The child's Picture-Puzzle and the Key represent the two elements of Education, Practice and Theory. In Nature's method—Evolution—Practice ever comes before Theory. We begin life by making mistakes. We learn by making mistakes: it is God's way of teaching us. Indeed, we go on doing all manner of perverse things. For instance, we try to fit a square peg into a round hole. Consequently the peg looks wrong, out of joint, out of gear, out of keeping, out of harmony; it is wrong because "common-sense," our own feeling which is our inward monitor, tells us so. Therefore it is absurd to teach a child by rules that a square peg will not fit a round hole. We simply let him try, and by making a mistake he soon finds out the truth for himself, namely the truth, law, or theory that round pegs fit round holes, and square pegs square holes. This is the kind of lesson the child learns from his picture-puzzle—the key being studiously withheld from him. Nature—the great Teacher—says: "First paint your picture." But I cannot till you show me how. "Well I then," says Nature, "you must. Therefore do it, rightly or wrongly. You will probably do it wrongly. If so, you will see that it is wrong, and once seeing your mistake, you must then try again, and still again, until at last you do it rightly." But how shall I know when I do it rightly?" In this way, says Nature: "My pupils always feel so happy when they do what is right." Thus having found out for himself first how to do it wrongly, and then how to do it rightly, he knows all about it; he has taught himself both Practice and Theory, the law of Right and Wrong. This is the secret of the School of Nature—God's method—a method, be it observed, the very reverse of the academic and conventional method of the present day. The student, whether of Life or Art or anything else, must find out things for himself, and assuredly he can. He makes a false move in his picture-puzzle—misplaces a piece. This piece and the adjoining pieces do not fit, they are "in false relation" to each other. Of this he himself is conscious. For this he himself is responsible, and it is for him to correct the mistake himself. This he must do by the light of his higher reason. His very eyes tell him there is something wrong, and as he has the power of doing wrong, of making a mistake, so he has also the power, or the power of acquiring the power, of doing right, of rectifying the mistake; and thus out of the wrong there eventually comes the right. Is it not by making mistakes that we ever learn to do anything properly? And how reasonable is God's method! When we are going wrong we feel pain or dis-ease; when we are going right we experience a sense of freedom, ease, and absence of restraint—of gladness, gratitude, satisfaction, joy. Listen to these two wise voices, the one speaking today, the other in the past. Tolstoy says: "If thy soul is not joyous, then know that the work which thou doest is not good"; and Swedenborg says, in his Spiritual Diary: "It is ordained that all evil shall punish itself, and thus that evil itself shall tend to abolish evil." Thus rightly viewed, failure is a blessing; disappointment is a blessing; evil is a blessing; death itself is a blessing. Hence the divine paradox that so sorely puzzles the thoughtless: "Whosoever will lose his life shall save it." It is in this way that even the more or less distorted view we have of God's beautiful picture-puzzle, the great universe around, is a blessing, because by apparently stultifying our intelligence and really deceiving our very eyes—as, for example, in the phenomena of sunrise and sunset, which are only apparent and not real motions of the sun—it provokes us to seek some other and truer view than that of our mere senses—a view which, far from stultifying our reason, satisfies it to the full and affords it unspeakable pleasure and increases our admiration of the Divine Wisdom. Thus we get rid of all our false views both of Life and of all other things, and so by degrees substitute for them views and theories more reasonable and if therefore more true. Thus, in short, we learn WISDOM.

But some of us are so easily thwarted. Finding one view or theory to be wrong we are prone to give it up without trying another. As we get older we forget the elementary lessons of our childhood; or, rather, they get stale through familiarity, and so lose their meaning. Here is one, for instance: "If at once you don't succeed, try, try, try again." That's four tries! I wonder how many of us try four times at a thing before we give in! The great English painter, Etty, tried thirteen consecutive years before he succeeded in getting a picture into the Academy Exhibition, and Palissy, the great French potter, bent upon finding out the secret of making a certain enamel, tried literally thousands of experiments, and at last succeeded. These experiments consisted of a laborious series of random guesses. He simply kept on guessing until he found what he wanted. "Found" is exactly the word. Some people imagine that wise men make truth. Only God makes truth; man simply finds it ready-made. He guesses at truth, and has the divine faculty of knowing it when he sees it. The reason why we fail in our search for truth is because we get tired of guessing. In plain English, we are lazy, and don't try often enough. How easy it is to say, as some do, "The ways of God are inscrutable, and past finding out," and although to some ears such language may sound very pious—the Devil himself "quotes Scripture"— it is hardly wise or reasonable to evade the paradoxes of life instead of strenuously trying, "agonizing" if need be, to unravel them. More wholesome and to the point are those inspiring lines of Cowper: "God is His own Interpreter, and He will make it plain." In other words, God holds the Key of the Puzzle.

To sum up the foregoing reflections: The Universe is one and indivisible, a Body of which God is the Soul, a perspective drawing in which all the lines converge to one common vanishing point. And in it everything exists for the sake of everything else, just as each part of a machine exists for the sake of the machine itself, and all for the use of man. There is an Ideal, a Motive, a Purpose wrapt up in everything. That Purpose, as far as we can see, is the Evolution of Man as a spiritual being. God's Will is to work out that Purpose, and this He is pleased to do through the simple instrumentality of man himself.

(To be continued)

A man should never be ashamed to own that he has been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser today than he was yesterday.
—Alexander Pope
There is always a way to everything desirable.
Emerson

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W. H. Gill

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