The Path – December 1894


In defining Philosophy, Professor Ferrier said that "Philosophy is not Truth, but reasoned Truth". And although it may be objected that Truth in its widest aspect must include "reasoned Truth" or Philosophy, yet to a great extent because the West has such imperfect knowledge of the real nature of Mind and of its inner workings, Truth has come to be regarded too much simply as knowledge of facts, of such facts as can be demonstrated scientifically, and of their relations and sequence on this plane only. All else is regarded more or less as speculative and uncertain. It is said that we can really know only what Science can demonstrate; other things may be true, we shall be glad if they are true, but they must first be proved true before we can regard them seriously. And so Philosophy, the "reasoned Truth" which endeavors to get at the how and the why of things, and which in so doing passes into the realm of metaphysics, is regarded, at least in its deeper aspect, as speculative; for although it accepts the facts of Science, it transcends Science and cannot be demonstrated according to modern scientific methods. If we take Religion in its true sense, as that which binds back men to the source of all, and so binds man to man on the inner planes of being, and which must include "right action" and "right living", we may see that Philosophy is the link between Science and Religion, that it completes the one and makes possible the other.

It is not enough to know, we must do more, we must endeavor to know how, and to know why. And although the ultimate how and why may be beyond us, may even transcend our powers of conception, yet it should be our aim to ever approximate to that ultimate. The history of man in all ages shows that he is ever impelled to seek the solution of this problem. Now in one way, now in another, man has sought to learn the wherefore and meaning of existence. The great religions of the world; the philosophies of all times; ancient and modern Science; these with their cosmogonies and theories of creation and emanation, of evolution and development, all are pages in the history of man's inner life, spiritual, moral, and mental; and could we read aright we could trace how at times he has risen till he has stood in the clear light of Truth, how too often he has sunk into the depths of shadow and illusion.

Where do we stand today in our seeking after Wisdom? What guide-posts have we to direct our course? Shall we follow the teachings of any one of the World-religions, or shall we take modern philosophy or modern science as a guide? But how can we know which of all these to follow? Surely we are in great perplexity, for before we can intelligently know which is the best guide we ought to study and compare all these teachings; otherwise we may make a great mistake and follow a false guide, when a little patience, a little investigation and study, would have shown us a true one. If we are to live rightly, to act rightly, we must have a right basis and we must think rightly. But it is claimed that even a slight comparative study of the great religions will reveal that their ethics are almost identical, and that if we can go deeper into this study we shall be forced to the conclusion that all had a common origin. So that while it is profitable to pursue such a course of study and if possible to add to it the study of philosophy and modern Science, yet even if this is beyond our power we need not despair nor become indifferent.

For what is it that is really necessary in order that we may act rightly? It may indeed be that to act rightly in an ultimate sense, ultimate knowledge is needed; but for each one to act rightly where he is depends upon his efforts to use the knowledge he now has, and upon his striving to reach his ideal. For each one has an ideal of some sort, perhaps a very high and holy ideal which he cherishes in his heart of hearts, and yet because it is so high he may too often fail to even remember it. A little thought will show that we have different ideals at different times, and that these are constantly changing. This must be so even if our ultimate ideal remains the same. That action is right action for each one which is done as far as possible with reference to one's ideal. By endeavoring to act up to our ideals we test them and make it possible for us to form new and higher ideals. A man's ideal is the unconscious result of his philosophy, and, strange as it may seem, the only way to obtain a true philosophy is not so much by studying as primarily and especially by living and acting, by living and acting up to one's ideal. So let the student ponder over the words of Jesus: "If any man willeth to do his will, he shall know of the teaching;" and let him also meditate on the words of a far earlier teacher, Krishna; "He who is perfected in devotion findeth spiritual knowledge springing up spontaneously in himself in the progress of time."

The Path