The first point of wisdom is to discern that which is false; the second, to know that which is true.
Everything is the Cosmic Order, from an atom, to a blade of grass, to the Milky Way appears mysterious. This is precisely what we should expect when finite minds confront the mystery of Infinite Consciousness. Thus, the best any of us can do is to acknowledge the infinite mysteries and forever explore, gaining a bit of light—which we will if our approach be right. To set the stage for what seems right to me, here is a quote by a noted astronomer:
All the phenomena of astronomy, which had baffled the acutest minds since the dawn of history, the movement of the heavens, of the sun and the moon, the very complex movement of the planets, suddenly tumble together and become intelligible in terms of the one staggering assumption, this mysterious “attractive force.” And not only the movements of the heavenly bodies, far more than that, the movements of earthly bodies, too, are seen to be subject to the same mathematically definable law, instead of being, as they were for all previous philosophers, mere unpredictable happen-so’s.1
It is my contention that the same law applies to human bodies as to the astronomer’s “earthly bodies.” He may have meant this; in any event, I believe he would agree.
What follows is an attempt to explain that growth in wisdom—awareness of truth—is governed by the advancement of the individual’s intellectual, moral, and spiritual qualities. This mysterious attractive force—magnetic affinity—draws to it only that additional perceptiveness which is far enough advanced to respond. And the higher one’s quality, the more wisdom or truth will be perceived. Mysterious? No less so than electricity! We do not know what it is, only that it is and what it does. As we harnessed electricity to our benefit, let us harness this mysterious force to the glory of mankind—freedom to grow, emerge, evolve in awareness, perception, consciousness.
To advance the freedom way of life, it is necessary to correct a popular and destructive fallacy. Time and again, this notion: “The socialists are winning; we are losing. Adopt their tactics.” Those who commend this approach have not as yet realized that the higher grade the objective is, the higher grade must the method be. The tactics for destroying a free society are strikingly different from those needed to create a free society. A bit of reflection, and this is self-evident.
Assume a low-grade objective: another’s demise. A low-grade method suffices: a dagger or gun.
Move up the hierarchy of values and assume that my objective is to make a poet of you. This is slightly absurd. First, I am not a poet and, second, you may have no potential for becoming a poet. But if this were my objective, you would not listen unless I displayed poetic talents. Otherwise, no magnetism, none whatsoever.
Now, move up the hierarchy of values as far as one can go: human liberty—every individual free to act creatively as he pleases. This correlates with understanding and wisdom, and the method must be commensurately as high. What is the method? It is nothing less than achieving that degree of excellence which will cause some others to seek one’s tutorship. The greater the excellence, the more responsive to the magnetism!
To dramatize the point I am trying to explain, pick up a horseshoe magnet. Put some sawdust on a table and hold the magnet above it. The magnetism is there but the sawdust lacks a responsive quality. Do the same with bits of iron or steel. Instantly, they respond to the magnetism. The difference is in the quality of what’s on the table, not the ever-present magnetism. Pursuing the analogy, are we human beings sawdust or steel? We can make ourselves one or the other. The extent that we move from next to nothing to something, determines the extent that the heavenly and earthly magnetisms will draw us to them! A few comments on heavenly and earthly magnetisms.
Heavenly. With this in mind, an appropriate daily prayer would be, “May I develop qualities that will be attracted by Thy Infinite Wisdom.” If the prayers be not of the rote variety but, instead, a fervent, sincere, yearning-for-learning kind, then Infinite Wisdom will begin to unfold—consciousness of finite minds moving heavenward.
Earthly. Take stock of finite minds. Every person who has ever lived, regardless of how wise, has been surrounded by people who were his superiors in this or that bit of expertise. Even the relative “giants”—ancient as well as contemporary—are dependent on these innate differences. Were all identical to Socrates, acclaimed as the wisest, all would perish. Precisely the same can be said of Leonardo da Vinci, Goethe, Bastiat, Emerson, Mises and, certainly, of me—and you, whoever you are!
Here is a demonstrable truth: The more we know the more we know we do not know. Thus, if one is not becoming more and more aware of how little he knows, he is not growing in that quality which is attracted to the everpresent magnetism. Grasp this rarely understood truth, as did Socrates, and we will think not only of ourselves but of all others—Presidents, Ph.D.’s, or whoever—as in a kindergarten class. Interestingly, the very few who progress into this stage of humility acquire a strong, vibrant, yearning-for-learning.
Reflect on this kindergarten maxim:
Good, better, best;
Never let it rest
Until good becomes better
And better becomes best.
I would add only this thought: Best is but a momentary stage in a never-ending progression; it’s better, better, better forever! “Truth and nothing but the truth” is not within man’s possibilities. What then is the noblest game in life? The search for truth!
Very well! What is the formula for learning from our earthly brethren, past and present? How gratify one’s yearning? But, first, two thoughts to keep in mind in order not to be confused by the “attractive forces” here reflected upon:
1. In a distinctly different category is what might be termed the “repeat-after-me” type of learning. The multiplication table is an example. To know instantly and without thought that 7x6 equals 42 is invaluable but is no contribution to mathematical science. Repeating the alphabet is another example of this kind of learning, but this common skill is a far cry from creating a language. Similarly, with millions of other skills on which our lives depend—bits of learning that range from repairing motors to flicking switches. These are indispensable repetitions but not creations, that is, they are not responses to the “attractive forces.”
2. Do not be misled by the millions who are not in search of truth. How can they be identified? They are those who know not how little they know and, thus, believe they can run our lives better than we can run our own. These unfortunate people—dictocrats and their followers—are in the pied piper clan and are, unknowingly, the enemies of creativity and freedom, and are easily spotted.
Here is our formula: Those who have progressed in their own search for truth possess a magnetism, and the more the growth the more the magnetism. If our quality be advanced enough, we will automatically be drawn to their enlightenment.
Finally, the sources will be as mysterious as the magnetism. So, forever listen! Wisdom may come, as the Bible suggests, “from out the mouths of babes.” To repeat the analogy, convert ourselves from sawdust to iron and steel and then observe how the magnetism performs its wonders—day in and day out. It is glorious to behold!