Rosicrucian Writings Online

[H. Spencer Lewis]

[From The Rosicrucian Digest October 1936]
ONE of the last things, perhaps, that anyone should suggest to the average adult is that he needs some additional education. It is strange how the average adult will resent the insinuation or intimation that he can learn something more, and yet God help the individual who thinks that he has learned all he needs and has completed his education. Fortunately for America and the Western World generally, the progressive nations have attained their progressive situation through the wide-spread acknowledgment on the part of the average human being that he needs more education. The growth and development of the public library systems in the Western World constitute one outstanding proof of this self-realization and magnificent way in which advantage is taken of golden opportunities to attain or acquire that additional education.
And of all the interesting ways that have developed in the Western World in recent years for enabling the adult man or woman to add to the storehouse of necessary knowledge, the most popular and really the most efficient method for the amount of time and money involved is that of the new form of adult education offered by the high schools and state colleges.
Within the last few days I have had the opportunity of visiting one of the high schools in the locality of San Jose where adults were registering for the fall and winter free courses. Each registrant is required to pay one dollar and this permits him or her to take one, two, three, or more courses of study throughout the fall and winter. On the occasion of my visit I found many hundreds of men and women of every walk of life and of every social standing and of every degree of education waiting to register and become a part of the great educational classes that were being formed. I can imagine little boys observing the line of registration saying to themselves, "Oh, look, Papa and Mama are going to school again!" And that is really as it should be.
Unless an adult does go to school again, he is sure to find himself very early in the prime of life more ignorant and more unqualified to proceed with life than he ever suspected. You cannot acquire any kind of an education to any point or degree of scholarliness and stop at that point and say, "I have now acquired all that is necessary in the form of knowledge." Even if such a thing could be true on the day of ending the course of study, it would not be true twenty-four hours later because in those twenty-four hours more things could be discovered in science, literature, art, the professions, mechanics and trades than one person could learn about and analyze and become familiar with in a whole year's course of study.
Knowledge, like matter itself, is constantly becoming. You cannot put your finger on any piece of matter whether the page of this magazine or the top of the table or chair where you are seated, or on a morsel of food, a beam of sunlight, a bucket of water, or a large piece of machinery and say, "This is it; this constitutes a certain kind of classification of matter." While you are saying the words the rates of vibration fluctuate and the piece of matter is starting to become something else. It may revert or so improve or change its vibrations as to become something else in a moment. Matter is always on the way to being something different. It is constant change in the rate of vibrations of matter that gives motion and life and makes matter manifest itself.
The same is true of knowledge. It is the evolution of knowledge, the new application of it, a newer realization of it and the modifying of it into new ideas and new thoughts that makes knowledge a useful thing and at the same time reveals to us our lack of knowledge.
Book knowledge acquired academically and never applied becomes not an asset but a liability. A curriculum completed in college or university even when it results in examinations that give a grade as high as 80 or 90 is merely a white elephant locked in the brain or set on top of the head which we carry around with us as dead weight unless we apply that knowledge and use it constructively not only for ourselves but for the benefit of others. They say there is nothing as useless as an electric cleaner, the sort of vacuum cleaner that is used in the home, if it stands in the closet and is never applied in a manner to perform its proper functioning. It is just a mass of machinery taking up space and neither ornamental nor beneficial.
It is when we come to apply what knowledge we have attained that we run face to face with problems which reveal to us that there is still some knowledge which we do not possess, and some knowledge that is in the process of being revealed or unfolded and which we must add to our present knowledge if we would keep up-to-date or make what we previously had of some value to you.
In the long line of persons registering in the adult classes there were those who had completed a professional course of study and had graduated as physicians, surgeons, dentists, engineers, electricians, and even good cooks and housewives. The extension of knowledge is not only automatic but systematic and if voluntary cooperation is not used in complying with the demands of the system, knowledge is attained haphazardly and becomes of little value. The professional man who may have passed a high examination in the specific courses of his selected study is sure sooner or later to realize that there are allied subjects so interlaced with his own profession that without a knowledge of these subjects his professional development is incomplete. On the other hand, there is a business man who may have attained great acumen in the secret practices of his trade but who finds he is incompetent to meet with and deal with average intelligent persons unless he is ready and prepared to discuss the important matters of the day and to keep abreast of the achievements of knowledge in all science departments and in the fields of literature, art, travel, music, etc.
I found in these registration lines those who were seeking to secure some fundamental knowledge of psychology and its application either professionally or in the affairs of life generally. And who can deal with the human problems of this day and understand the complex situations politically, economically, and otherwise, without coming face to face with matters that can be solved only by a knowledge of the fundamentals of psychology? And there were those who were determined to perfect themselves in some of the fine arts in order that as hobbies or spare-time indulgences they might not only occupy themselves pleasantly but profitably. Then there were those who like members of the ancient school of philomathics simply loved knowledge for the sake of revelling in its power and its magnificence of universal influence.
I found that a large portion of the men and women seeking this free education of a limited nature were anxious to take up brief courses of study in what would add to their cultural refinement and intellectual prowess. I heard one of the professors, an eminent authority, stating that there is nothing that will build up a person's joy in living and a person's power to attract and influence people like the study and practice of personal hygiene and the development of a refined and cultured personality.
It used to be said that next to godliness is cleanliness and we might paraphrase this by saying the third point of the triangle is that of culture--culture of the mind, body, thinking processes, of all actions and of all habits and tendencies.
This is precisely the work of the great school of Rosicrucianism. If there is any one thing that distinguishes one individual from another outside of neat personal appearance, it is the manifestation of intellectual assets. One can go too far in overdressing with clothes that will be impressive. One can wear just too much jewelry to make the proper impression of wealth and social position. But one can never go too far in exhibiting intelligence, for along with intelligence comes an understanding of its purpose, application, and the proper cultural refinement in its use. No one can have so much education that he overuses it or misuses it.
Not only does knowledge beget power, as the ancients learned and have advised us, but it begets many of the blessings of life that are unsuspected. Not many months ago I stood in one of the night courts of California watching the unfortunates who were arrested and picked up on the streets and who were brought into the court for preliminary hearing before being assigned to cells in a prison to await trial. The night courts were developed for the purpose of avoiding the unfortunate condition of placing in a cell for a night or a night and a day those who were wrongly or unjustly suspected of some wrong-doing and who should have a proper trial before being released. In many instances those who are suspected and arrested are instantly freed and are saved the embarrassment--as well as the extremely depressive experience--of being confined to a cell to await trial at a later hour. And while I was watching those who were called upon and brought before the judge by the police officers, I noted that in every case where an intelligent person had some degree of culture or refinement, more consideration, more leniency, was given in the examination. I do not mean by this that the intelligent and cultured evil-doer was shown leniency in regard to punishment for his crime, but he was given more opportunity to explain his unfortunate situation and was given more courteous treatment simply because in some subtle manner that perhaps the judges and the police themselves did not notice for the moment, the officers were influenced by the culture, refinement, and education of the individual automatically to show him or her more consideration.
It is not true that the cultured person cannot do evil or that the highly educated and refined evil-doer should be forgiven on the basis that "the King can do no wrong," or that the cultured creatures of society should have special privileges. But it is true that the more intelligent and cultured an individual is, the more unlikely will he indulge in evil and the more likely will he be able to explain away a situation that is unfortunate or suspicious. It is simply that intelligence enables an individual who is in the complicated situation to understand his predicament and to meet it more than half way and to show how and why he is guiltless or innocent and merely involved through circumstances. Certainly a study of the cases in courts reveals that the man who is ignorant and deliberately inclined to shun culture, refinement, and education as being unnecessary things in life, involved himself in sad situations and unfortunate conditions by the bias, prejudice, and ignorant beliefs he holds. He enters a court of trial with a prejudice against the person who suspected him, with malice toward the officers who arrested him, with suspicion of the fairness and justice of the court who will hear him, and with radical criticism of the whole form of government. From the moment that he begins to explain the situation or answers questions, he entangles himself deeper and deeper in the net that has fallen upon him.
So many persons think that the use of strong adjectives, even profane ones, the bombastic ejaculations of a loud voice, the hammering of the fist, or the making of wild gestures enable them to emphasize or carry over to the mind of another the points of their arguments. The truth of the matter is that these things are tell-tale marks of ignorance, the lack of culture and refinement, and therefore the proper signs of weakness to yield to evil temptations. Again I would warn my readers not to think that I am implying that ignorance carries with it always an easy spirit to sin, or that the uneducated person is criminal at heart and weak in that stamina which makes for good character.
But the most powerful form of oratory is that which is refined in tone and quality, void of almost all gestures, and psychologically expressed so as to allow the ones who are listening to put into the argument their own degrees of emphasis and their own interpretations. One of the most profoundly impressive psychological actresses whom I have known, outside of Sarah Bernhardt, was one who was able to recite "Little Boy Blue" and move the entire audience to the deepest emotions, even tears, without arising from her chair or making a single gesture with her hands or raising her voice unduly throughout the entire recitation. We must remember that he who knows retains to himself the glory, the assurance, the confidence, and the power of his knowledge. When one knows, and knows that he knows, one can remain quite passive and coolly collected throughout the most trying situation. It is like one who holds the trump card in his hand and passively waits for the end of the game when he may quietly and without ostentation lay his trump on the table and clear the deck. Those who are acquainted with even the fundamentals and the profound principles of life and the great mysteries and great laws that can be used in emergencies have no need for the outer show of physical power, nor for a dominating voice that might tend to frighten animals but can do nothing but raise question and doubt in the minds of other beings. Such a person is familiar with the means whereby he can immediately and most efficiently protect himself and have his best interests preserved intact. The true Rosicrucian is not one who is widely educated with a smattering of many subjects, nor one who is so intensely educated that he becomes a walking encyclopedia of all the important facts of the universe; but he is one who is well cultured in fundamentals and has used these to evolve and perfect the cultural evolution, the refined presentation, and the masterful control of himself and his personal affairs. Such a person is never fearful of the outcome of any test or trial, is never confused by the complexity of situations, never confounded by the threats and challenges of those who are without his knowledge and is always at home and at peace with his peers--those who like himself know the fundamental truths of life and possess the keys to power.

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