The Light of Reason
Edited by James Allen
Vol. VI. July 1st, 1904 No. 1
—W. H. Gill
In his search for essential knowledge—Truth, a man must discover what constitutes knowledge, and must search his mind to find what he really knows, and what he does not know. He must pass his accumulated store of conceptions through the sieve of analysis, in order to find and retain the few golden grains of knowledge which are contained in them, throwing away the useless mass of opinions, beliefs, and speculations which are not only no part of knowledge, but obscure its clear manifestation.
When a man thus starts to clarify his intellect and put it in order, he is astonished to find how limited is the extent of his actual knowledge, and how all along he has been regarding as knowledge that which is merely opinion, belief or supposition. He also gradually develops the power of distinguishing between things as they are, and metaphysical speculations about things, and with the steady development of this power, he not only discovers what he actually knows and does not know, he at last comprehends what constitutes the knowable and what the unknowable. He then withdraws his mind from the contemplation, and his tongue from the discussion, of subjects which are outside the range of experience, abandons hypothesis and speculation, and confines himself to the extension of his knowledge of things as they are.
Speculations about things are vain, and lead away from knowledge. Nor can the Reality of things be apprehended until the veil of assumptive illusion is torn from the mental vision. Theological and metaphysical speculations are illusory, and have in them no substance, no reality, yet it will be found that, ordinarily, men regard them as substantially real, and of the utmost value. Speculations about God, Jesus, Creation, or the beginning of things; about miracles, supernatural beings, and the future state, come at last to be regarded by those who frame them and live in them as being vital realities, while the actual realities of their life and being, their present living experiences, are overlooked and unheeded.
Just as there is but a step between the sublime and the ridiculous, so there is but a very thin line dividing the speculative from the superstitious, for both spring from ignorance of things as they are. When men talk much about God or Jesus they invariably confuse their speculations about a God outside themselves and about the physical and historical Jesus with their inner experiences, and the true nature of the experiences is lost in the prominence given to the speculations.
It is imperative that the Truth-seeker shall abandon the alluring pathway of metaphysical speculation, and shall, by rigidly adhering to if the narrow way of actual experience, by confining himself to the practical attainment and discovery of what is good and true and real in life, rise into the clear atmosphere of wisdom, and acquire that penetrating insight which does not confuse the true with the of false, the known with the unknown, the actual with the speculative.
Nevertheless, metaphysical speculation has its use, namely, to draw the mental energies from the gross passional up to the finer intellectual plane of action, and this is the reason why men, when they aspire to something higher than the life of animal passion in which they are immersed, at first become absorbed in the miraculous, the wonderful, and the hypothetical, but when the passional energies are transmuted into intellectual and moral force, and the man is become self-contained, calm, and pure, the need for speculation is at an end, and its continuance is then an evil, serving only to obscure the highest perception, the perception of Truth. It is also necessary that man should pass if through various forms of speculative thought it in order to discover its unsatisfying, inadequate, and illusory nature, and so become prepared to receive and comprehend the Real.
Opinions, beliefs, hypotheses, speculations, however they may serve as means, are not ends, not realities, are no part of knowledge. Let the Truth-seeker sift his mind, putting these on one side and his actual knowledge on the other, and thus discovering how little he knows, how much he does not know, he will be ready to enter the lowly but divinely beautiful path of wisdom. Withdrawing his mind from vain assumptions, and withholding his tongue from foolish and vain-glorious controversies, he will advance step by step in the practice of Truth, until at last, all his doubts and fears dispelled, he will come to the perception of the Real, and will find rest in surety, for nothing short of the unclouded perception of the Real can bestow abiding peace.
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More from James Allen
James Allen was a little-known philosophical writer and poet. He is best recognized for his book, As a Man Thinketh. Allen wrote about complex subjects such as faith, destiny, love, patience, and religion but had the unique ability of explaining these subjects clearly and in a way that is easy to understand. He often wrote about cause and effect, sowing and reaping, as well as overcoming sadness, sorrow, and grief. For more information on the life of James Allen, click here.