The Universal Order - Study Group Paper 1
"Wherefore I prayed and understanding was given me; I called upon God and the Spirit of Wisdom came to me. I preferred Her before sceptres and thrones, and esteemed riches nothing in comparison of Her." Proverbs
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Philosophy is the love of wisdom. To be wise is more than to be learned: wisdom is higher than knowledge, since it implies the right use of knowledge.
The true philosopher is one who seeks wisdom before all other things. He has attained a personal vision of truth, and because he knows the real and ultimate ends of life, and the surest means of fulfilling them, he is able to direct all his thought and action into the most profitable channels. He sees the eternal in the transient, the cause in the effect, the past and future in the present. He is, as Plato has said, "the spectator of all time and existence".
II. The Purpose of Philosophy
The purpose of philosophy may be said to be that of enabling the human consciousness to attain truth by the exercise of all its gnostic faculties. Philosophy seeks to discover the ultimate reality behind all phenomena, the root principles upon which all things depend, and the reasons for their existence. It seeks to relate concrete facts to abstract ideas, and processes to laws; to give to the findings of science and the experiences of life their ultimate significance; to make intelligible their mutual relations; and to reconcile all apparently conflicting views and opinions.
Without philosophy man lives a life but little higher than that of the animals, for he is dependent upon his senses, instincts, and the habits and experiences of others, but by philosophic disciplines he is enabled to discover and prove truth for himself, to know the real nature of himself and the world in which he lives.
III. The Process
The process by which this purpose is achieved is that of making actual the knowledge which is latent in the human soul. As Plato proves in the dialogue Meno, the potentiality of gaining all truth and knowledge is already in the soul when it is born in a physical body. But to bring this latent knowledge from potentiality into actuality, so that the individual is fully conscious that he possesses it, requires the discipline of philosophy.
The fact that we recognize the truth of any proposition which is presented to our minds is evidence that notions of truth, or innate ideas of truth, are potentially within us, and that it is only necessary for our attention to be directed to them in order that we should become fully conscious of them. But in order that we may be able to recognize these ideas clearly and without confusing them with each other, it is necessary that the faculties by which they are recognized should be known and exercised.
Since man is not merely a physical organism, he has an intellectual and spiritual nature, and just as he has faculties or gnostic powers which enable him to contact and extract knowledge from that which is sensible and concrete, so too he has faculties which address themselves to that which is intelligible and abstract. These gnostic faculties are:-
The Senses - the means whereby we acquire sensible knowledge of the world.
The Instincts - conjecture, probability, inference, the tendency to derive knowledge from appearances.
The Estimative Faculty - knowledge based on the opinions and testimony of others, or of the senses and instincts. The estimative faculty knows that a thing is, but cannot explain why it is.
The Reason - the conscious exercise of intelligence, and the faculty whereby we know and apply the abstract ideas innate in the soul.
The Intuition - the intuitive, spiritual, and direct cognition of abstract and universal ideas and aspects of truth.
These faculties may be little used by the vast majority of human beings, but this does not disprove the fact that they are possessed. A truly philosophic training, by giving exercise to all the human gnostic faculties, gradually awakens those that are not habitually used and makes them efficient, at the same time introducing the mind to a first-hand and self-evident cognition of Truth.
IV. The Criterion
The criterion of Philosophy is Reason. Reason, in its pure and full sense, is itself one of the faculties which are not fully used by the average person, although the fact that man inherently possesses the faculty to reason colours all the operations of his mind.
The process of reason is the same in all people, and as such is essentially reliable. Any two thinkers reasoning accurately from the same premises will inevitably reach the same conclusions; all differences of opinion must therefore result either from starting from different premises or from a flaw in the chain of syllogisms which constitute the process of reasoning. Were this process not trustworthy in itself, no two human beings could ever agree on any truth. The fact that people of all ages and countries have agreed upon certain fundamental principles and have expressed these in such a way that they make an unanswerable appeal to the human reason is evidence that the reason, when properly used, is trustworthy.
V. Three First Principles
There are three fundamental first principles that constitute the basis of all knowledge and existence. They are:-
a) God, as the Divine Unity or ONE. The First Principle of all principles
b) The Cosmos or Macrocosm as a manifestation of God
c) Man, who has definite relations with God and with the Cosmos, yet is not identical with either.
By taking these three First Principles as starting points, it is possible to gain an increasingly clear insight into the nature of truth and a trustworthy standard whereby to judge every theory or speculation which can be presented at the bar of human reason.
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"Reason and faith may kiss each other. To blaspheme Reason 'tis to reproach heaven itself and to dishonour the God of Reason. The light of Reason doth no more prejudice the light of Faith than the light of a candle doth extinguish the light of a star." Culverwell
"The soul is dyed the colour of its thoughts" Marcus Aurelius
"Will contents herself with God as being good. But intellect, leaving this behind, goes in and breaks through to the root whence shoots the Son and whence the Holy Spirit blossoms forth." Meister Eckhart
"Pythagoras, being asked if he called himself a wise man, denied himself that name, and said that he was not wise, but a lover of wisdom. And thence it happened afterwards that all students of wisdom were called lovers of wisdom, that is, philosophers…which we may observe is not a term of arrogance, but of humility." Dante (Il Convito, III.xi.2)
"Truth is within ourselves; it takes no rise from outward things…TO KNOW rather consists in opening out a way whence the imprisoned splendour may escape." Browning
© The Universal Order 2001