Each individual, each nation, and all mankind viewed as a whole, is capable of development and progress. This development has an almost infinite potentiality – as man’s longing to know everything, to be able to do everything, and to live forever, bears witness. No man is content in the state in which he finds himself, but aspires to proceed from ignorance to knowledge, from weakness to strength, and from mortality to immortality.
This desire is implanted in the souls of individuals and of nations, because no nation is satisfied with the condition in which it lives, but wishes for progress and development, and longs to advance from the immature state to the mature, from ignorance and illiteracy to knowledge, from weakness to power, and from mortality to immortality. The development of each individual is also the development of each nation, and in turn is the development of all mankind as well, for mankind has a tendency toward progress and perfection.
By nature, every man is inclined to abhor ignorance and the inability to do freely that which he wishes; by nature man also is inclined to abhor death. He is disposed unfavorably toward these three phenomena which not only are harmful, but also are destructive and annihilative to human nature – while he is benevolently inclined toward knowledge, power, and life, for these are positive nutrients and fulfillments of his nature.
A person is uneducated; he is powerless and unable to do anything; he is mortal – this is the very antithesis of his being full of knowledge and wisdom, or of his being omnipotent, or of his being eternal and deathless. Or let us assume that an individual is wise; he is omnipotent; he is deathless. As the former state is evil, so the latter is good.
The first state is similar to a stigma or reproach against a person who possesses the desire to know everything, to be able to do everything freely and reasonably, and to live forever without possibility of pain. He desires omniscience concerning all things, but he is lacking in knowledge, having been born in complete and utter ignorance. He desires omnipotence over all things, but he is weak and incapable of doing anything reasonably. He desires life – perfect and eternal life, but he is mortal, and he is living a life which he does not wish to live. He lives, but the life which he has is far removed from the life he desires to have. He lives, but then suddenly, without warning, death terminates earthly life for him, and frustrates his longings for knowledge of everything, for power over everything, and for everlasting life.
It is paradoxical that these two irreconcilable phenomena are apparent in man, and above all, the phenomenon of death – even though man is filled with longing for life, particularly eternal life. His ignorance and his desire for knowledge – this is the first phenomenon. Weakness and inability to do what is right, and the longing for all power and for freedom of action – this is the second phenomenon. A life of evil and pain and death, and the longing for life eternal – this is yet another phenomenon found in man.
Even stranger is the element of unhappiness because of ignorance, powerlessness, death, and painful life. An earnestly inquiring man should confront himself with these questions: Why is he sad because of his ignorance? Why, in his innermost soul, does he feel a deep distress because of his state of ignorance? If he had been created to be ignorant, should he not be content with his ignorance? Should he not be content to remain within the confines of his nature?
Or again, if he had been created to gain some knowledge and to know certain truths and pieces of information, should he not be satisfied with the knowledge of these, and these alone, without any wish or impulse to extend the range of his knowledge? In that case, should he not be content with his limited knowledge? Should he not rejoice that, he has attained the height or destiny of his nature, and that he has become complete and satisfied, not lacking in anything?
But, one may reply, the desire which he possesses to learn of the things about him and of himself, drives him forward toward that which lies ahead and says to him, as Socrates was addressed by his demon, “Go forward to be happy.” The longing for knowledge causes him to hate ignorance and be saddened by it, but it also causes him to rejoice in knowledge and in the truth which is revealed to him. Therefore, he is certain that God created him not to remain in ignorance, but to have knowledge and to learn why the world around him has become a mystery – to gain knowledge, and to learn the truth which can nourish, develop, and perfect his nature.
God formed man capable of possessing knowledge and wisdom, and that is why, on the one hand, he is repelled by ignorance, and why, on the other, he is attracted to knowledge powerfully. That man should remain in ignorance, though created for knowledge, is evil, but the fact that he has begun from ignorance is imperfection, for he who is ignorant is not perfect, whereas he who has knowledge is perfect in his knowledge. Ignorance is the first stage at which a man stands as he comes into the world, because he has no knowledge whatsoever. But when he has received the spirit of consciousness from God, he comes to know himself and the sensible world around him, and through orthos logos or right reason he eventually comes to know the eternal God.
From his desire to know not simply this or that, neither this nor that partial truth, man concludes that he was fashioned for the truth, and that he was created by God to become the dwelling place and tabernacle of the eternal truth, which is the natural good of bis nature. In fact, he has been fashioned to become wise by knowledge, even omniscient as is God, and a tabernacle of truth.
But why, if man has been fashioned for absolute truth – the one, universal truth which he longs to possess – does he fail to find it? Why does he sometimes foolishly deny its existence, though he contradicts himself by longing for it, and frequently accepts anything other than truth as the truth? Why is there so much misconception in the universities (perversities) and a lamentable failure to discover truth? Why is there this skepticism and denial of all truth, evidenced by the manner in which the universities work against man’s longing for genuine truth-for God-equal, eternal, and universal truth? What underlies this strange phenomenon?
Man, in ignorance, yet desiring all knowledge, has need of laws and precepts to help him know and discover what he does not yet know, and above all, eternal truth – for this is the ultimate goal of the desire for knowledge. But man cannot know this truth without a law and a precept to point the way toward it. Hence when anyone seeks the truth contrary to the code and system of truth, he is mistaken and falls into hopeless skepticism. This is the mistake which was the origin of many evils in the world. This same mistake is the mother of unhappiness, for when a man longs to know the truth, but fails to find it, he is unhappy, and leads a poor, wretched life. This is the sin of our forefathers, called original sin.
In order for the ignorant who longs for all knowledge to come to know the eternal truth, he first must be given a code of truthful laws for his path in life to be illuminated by its rays. Otherwise, he cannot escape the deadly rocks of error upon which are dashed those who have not conformed to the laws and precepts of eternal truth – or who have not welcomed truth’s illumination in their lives, for this is the only manner for truth to be known and fully comprehended. Here, then, is a primordial cause of error.
A second point is that man comes out of complete weakness and helplessness and goes forward toward the strength of perfection. His strength consists of. doing what is correct, and of being able to work and act according to the willpower which he possesses. He grieves when he is helpless and rejoices when he is competent. This demonstrates that while he now is weak, he may become strong, even very strong or omnipotent, for he cherishes not simply a particular ability, but infinite ability. He longs to work and to act according to the very law by which God also works, namely, the universal law of God, the standard and law of God’s activity.
Although this is what man desires, and though he wishes to work and act, if he does not know the universal law of God, he fails in upright, moral action and he is unhappy. The inability to do right and good, because it competes with man’s desire to have his activities guided by the absolute law of God, introduces the misery which is original sin, which is transmitted hereditarily to the entire human race.
What is the reason for which man is incapable of conducting his affairs in accordance with the absolute law of God? The reason is that man seeks activity without ability; he seeks action without strength. He seeks to carry out the law without first ascertaining whether he possesses adequate ability for it, or the necessary willpower. This is the reason for man’s failure in efficiency which leads to unhappiness. He who is unable to achieve efficiency in his affairs, and the lawful performance of his duty, first should have accepted a code of behavior from God and should have received strength, since previously he would have been enlightened by the knowledge of truth concerning the power of truth and law.
Without this, man cannot perform anything fair or good, nor any moral or holy deed. One who denies the existence of truth, in his folly also denies both the existence of law and the power by which he who acts, acts efficiently and well, and becomes omnipotent, even as God.
Because they observe in man the desire for ability and freedom of action or complete efficiency, but also witness his inability to do what is good or to function and act freely, and his unhappiness because of this, the foolish presume man to be a prisoner for eternity. Some even assume man’s power to do evil easily, to be the power of God.
Consequently, these foolish persons put bodily courage, passions and lusts of the flesh, or heroic acts, in the place of God. They conjecture war to constitute the supreme good, and Peace to constitute the greatest evil. This, or something similar to it, was the state of all antiquity during the pre-Christian era.
Now we are brought to the third point. Life is the natural result of the knowledge of eternal truth, and of our activity as guided by the universal law of God. Well informed and truthful understanding, when balanced by lawful and just conduct of affairs and action. produces life in man. Man desires to live forever, just as he also longs to know and to be able to do all things. Man, born in utter and complete ignorance and weakness, also is born by nature without life. From the state of no-life he gradually progresses to a state of life as he learns truth and acts according to law. He loves life as much as he hates no-life, but this no-life is the imperfect state of man from which he commences as he seeks and gains perfection.
Life commences from the dawn of consciousness and increases with the knowledge of truth and with law abiding action. It becomes good or evil, corresponding to the knowledge and the action, whether they be true or false, good or evil. But despite the desire for life, death suddenly befalls all men, for it is the consequence of false knowledge and action. It is punishment laid upon man who conducts his affairs in defiance of the universal law. St. Paul declared that “. . . the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) – of distorted understanding and lawless action. Hence the parents of death are falsehood and transgression of the law of God, while the parents of life are truth and man’s observance of the law of God.
Ignorance and helplessness are the first indications of man’s imperfection; it is upon their heels that no-life follows. Death is not an indication of imperfection, but a penalty for transgression of the law and deviation from the truth. Death is punishment for original sin, laid upon all who sin in the same manner as Adam. Adam at first possessed ignorance and weakness, and later, having gone astray and having become a transgressor of the law, received death as a punishment. As long as death holds dominion, man can neither understand truth nor act freely. He becomes a victim of his desires. When the power of death is cancelled, and man is guided toward truth and is given strength to act according to reason, man’s perfection also will be possible. This, however, is the work of God.