Help Nature and work on with her, and Nature will regard thee as one of her creators and make obeisance.
And she will open wide before thee the portals of her secret chambers, lay bare before thy gaze the treasures hidden in the very depths of her pure virgin bosom.
The object of life is to fulfill our duty and to gather experience. The soul in its endless pilgrimage incarnates into body after body, coming into contact with different experiences, which continually mould and remould the character of the Ego, shaping it into higher and higher forms. This evolution is helped on by outward and inward influences, or it may be considerably retarded at times. Yet even apparent retrogression is often in reality a step forward, through the knowledge which may have been gained thereby.
In these times we are very apt to look upon this evolution through a pair of very highly colored glasses. We have set up an arbitrary standard of what we think desirable, of what progress is, and learning, and useful knowledge, and education. We look upon culture and civilization as something confined entirely to these latter days, and we are apt to consider even our forefathers of not so very far back as belonging to an after all very crude race of men. At this day we recognize only that civilization most akin to our own as at all worthy of the name, and, like the Romans of old, we dub as "barbarians" all those outside its pale.
In like manner do we attempt to prescribe in what way knowledge is to be obtained, and who are to be the teachers. We require the seal of authority put upon everything, we look for finality in an infinite world. To be educated today means that we have passed through a high school or college, or a university, and the renown of the institution of learning in a large degree forms the measure by which our attainments are judged.
Much of all this knowledge is simply ornamental. Much of it forms an outward polish, perhaps pleasing to the eye, but, as usual with polishes, lying only skin deep and without being founded on truth and real worth within. It is in this respect hypocrisy and a lie, and no less so because perhaps it is unconscious. For man's nature has indeed become so perverted that he often is quite incapable of seeing the truth, that he like all around him mistakes the glitter that forms his outward shell for the real man within, not perceiving that the latter, through his long sojourn in the cramped abode, has become dwarfed and narrow himself, weakening the ties that bind him to his own higher nature — the God which each one, at times at least, finds appealing for recognition in his breast.
Another part of the knowledge imparted is that which is generally called useful. All real knowledge is useful, but the knowledge mostly so regarded is that by whose aid man is enabled in some way to forward his own personal interests. This he is systematically taught to do in every possible way, regardless of the consequences to others. It comes from the general acceptance of that most pernicious doctrine of "the survival of the fittest." The same doctrine may just as well be expressed in that other well-known phrase, "To the victor belong the spoils," for in reality this means the same thing, or in still other words, "might is right."
It is just as well to put it bluntly, so that he who runs may read. Our intellectual and spiritual doctors of today mostly serve us sugar-coated pills, in which, while they may be pleasant to the taste, the sugar entirely counteracts and nullifies the action of the useful, health-restoring drug.
And while much of the knowledge gained may be of real assistance in the upbuilding of our character, yet it is so covered up with all kinds of dross that only the most careful and patient search will reveal the important truths contained therein. It is the dross due to making knowledge subservient to selfish ends.
Some of the wisest men that have lived have left behind them a storehouse of knowledge in the shape of books, treating of the subject they had laboriously studied and which they had mastered in greater or less degree. In these books we find a rich fund to draw upon, and, wisely used, they become of incalculable value to us, lessening our toil and making it possible for us to cover the ground traversed by these writers in immeasurably shorter time than they required. And yet, in a way, we have to learn just as they did, we have to make their knowledge our own before it becomes of any use to us whatever, and through us to others. We must make it our own very much in the same way as they did it, by experiencing, by living out the truths we have learned from them.
No knowledge comes to us ready-made. No matter how simple a teaching, no matter how plain the words, different persons will always read a book differently. Each will read it as it looks to him through his individual pair of spectacles, and they all differ as much as their owners do. The clearer they are, without tint of envy or hate or covetousness, the clearer is also the view they give us, and the more nearly do we perceive what the teachers and writers meant to convey.
Yet progress is the law of the universe. If we felt satisfied to only make that knowledge our own, which others possessed before, then we might just as well not have lived at all, for we would then have added nothing, would not have paid our debt to nature, we would then have lived only for the purpose of ourselves, advancing to a very limited state of perfection without having helped the rest of mankind on its journey.
Those who have gone before us have gathered that which they have left to us from the limitless storehouse of Nature, that great book which lies open to all who will but approach it in the right spirit. It is a living book, which speaks to us through all that we perceive with the outer senses, if we but use them so that we do not destroy the higher, inner senses, which reveal to us the real inner meaning of the things perceived.
Nature is a kind mother, but as just as she is compassionate. She knows no preference, but works on for all her children, treating all alike, and requiring the same impartial justice from them. She requires of them that they, too, shall love one another, shall help her as she helps them, that they shall look upon and work for the welfare of all creation as if that welfare were their own. She requires of them that they shall strive to understand her work and harmonize their lives with it.
As they do so, so does she begin to reveal and unfold herself to them. As they do so, so does their inner vision become clearer, do the clouds disappear, the scales that had blinded their vision one by one fall away. Where sight and sound were meaningless before, there appear now in their place the most wondrous truths, seen and heard by the now partly awakened soul, which thereby day by day comes into yet closer contact with Nature.
The book of Nature lies open to all men, but they themselves must do the reading. Its alphabet must be learned, its language understood, ere the knowledge it imparts becomes intelligible. That language is the language of the heart, and only he can read it who approaches it with a simple, open mind, free from prejudices as from selfish desires. For selfishness is the dark veil which hides the light that radiates from the thousand pages of Nature's book, while love and compassion bring us nearer to the Universal Mind which has printed its wisdom thereon.
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