Wisdom is the -principal thing;
therefore get wisdom:
and with all thy getting
get understanding — Proverbs, iv, 7
The search for truth is not a fad, crank, or hobby for the idle; it is neither remote, far-fetched, nor impracticable; it loathes all things wonder-mongering, fantastic or spookical. If you hear theories put forward that are any of those things, your right answer would be: "What you preach is very quaint no doubt, but that is not what I am seeking."
Truth is something we can take with us behind the scenes of the daily routine, and make every moment of our lives noble with it. Noble, rich, varied, interesting and happy. There is no other way to do this; simply because we must learn the truth about things, about life; why we are here; why things are as they are, and how to make them better; and what our real relation is to life, to our fellow men, to the universe. We can't make a good job of life unless we understand life. We can't make a good job of ourselves unless we know what we are.
Oh, but people have always been making the same kind of job of things; why shouldn't we all be as they? Why should we bother? . . . Yes; why not drift with the current? There's only Niagara roaring a little ahead! A pretty mess the world has drifted into, hasn't it? Just because people have not understood life, and so have not known how to work it properly. It's up to us then to begin to get understanding.
If man were just a stupid bore or a mean cur, and couldn't be anything else, the thing would be hopeless; he might perish in his meanness and stupidity, and none would shed a tear. But man is not that; there is more in him than that. In him, whoever he is, are all the qualities and faculties necessary to make the world decent. Man is neither a worm nor a miserable sinner, except in the outermost husk and rind of his being.
Inside, somewhere deep within, is a Thinker, the equal of Plato and the greatest; and we might get busy and begin to awaken him to life. In us, deeper again, is a being all compassionate, all noble, all wise — a Christ, a Buddha; and we might begin now to work for it that sometime he may be manifest. Deeper in again is something greater still; a god; and a supergod; and a super-god of super-gods. There is no end to it; the Highest in all the boundless universe is latent in each one of us.
It must be so; because man is the child and the fruit of the universe: as the acorn is to the oak, so is he to the Boundless. Everything that is in the oak is in the acorn, or a new oak could not grow out of it; and everything that is in the universe is in man, and can develop and be made to grow out of him.
Think! Here are you as you know yourself; the Tom Jones of everyday life, a miner, let us say, locked up in your dreary and anxious life; a prisoner in the prison of yourself, and feeling it — or you wouldn't be seeking escape. And there is the whole country outside you; and all the world outside of it, and the solar system outside that; and the universe outside the solar system; but you are shut in in your own Tom Jones-hood, and can have no freedom or enjoyment of any of them.
But then rise within yourself, from the personal self, the Tom Jones-hood, to the thinking self, impersonal; and at once you are free in a greater world. You can think; you can examine life and form your conclusions; you can study science, and learn that materialism is a vanished dream; you can study philosophy, and be the companion of great Plato and the Thinkers; best of all, you can come to know for yourself, and thus be free in a great world, no longer shut in within your own small personal life and self.
Going down into the mine, you would cut your coal not because you have to and there is no escape from it, not to earn your wages, not cursing your lot or suffering the misery of hatred: but with the golden will and purpose to serve the Great Self which is the self of humanity and the inmost self of you and the Ultimate Reality of you. And there in the stench and filth and darkness you would shed light around you, and wholesomeness, from the light and health in your heart and mind.
You would not waste your life fretting because you cannot at once change your outer conditions; you would know that these are simply the result of inner conditions, in the minds of men and of yourself; and you would work overtime and all the time to change these inner conditions: in yourself, by destroying there the illusion that you are separate from the rest of humanity and creating there that love which is knowledge of your oneness with all humanity: meeting hatred with love; insult and injury with swift and natural forgiveness. You would know the supreme truth: that all the sorrows and misfortunes of others are yours; and that henceforth wherever there was pain and weakness you would do your utmost to bring strength and joy. A happy man infects others with happiness; a strong man with strength.
(From Sunrise magazine, February 1954; copyright © 1954 Theosophical University Press)