Phineas Parkhurst Quimby
Language: What is Wisdom?(Part One, Cont.)
The question may be asked, “What is wisdom?” I will try to give you an illustration. Suppose you invent some new machine for guiding a vessel. Now in illustrating a truth, you must suppose yourself ignorant of navigation, so you apply yourself to the study to learn it thoroughly. You enter a ship as an apprentice for the sake of learning. The word “navigation” is a word that is applied to a certain kind of wisdom, not reduced to practice. The theory is learned, and then your senses attach the word navigation to the theory - and this is called knowledge; for it admits a doubt, whether you know it or not.
To know a thing is to put it into practice and know how you do it; while to teach it to others is another branch. Therefore, in all this there is no true wisdom. Suppose you take a voyage with me, and try to put your wisdom into practice, and you fail. Then where do you stand? Your wisdom is not wisdom, but a belief based on what you have no proof of. You believed a person could navigate a vessel.
Now I want to put your theory (or name) in sympathy with the matter (or elements) (or practice of seamanship). So I make the winds and currents and tides and cross seas - and every obstacle that a ship master has to encounter; so that you see all this, as you see your theory. Now both are separate; each has its identity, separate and apart from the other. One is matter; while the other is spirit.
Now to unite the two is wisdom. So when I teach you how to apply your theory to your practice, so that the two become one - the wedding is called wisdom. Before it was a theory (or belief); not wisdom. So now you - being one - when you are asked if you believe you can navigate a vessel, you will say, “I have no belief. I know I can.” This is known to you. So knowledge is a belief in wisdom. But when you put your knowledge (or belief) into practice (or apply it to something), and it is right - then the two bring forth the element called “wisdom.”
Now as wisdom creates, it cannot act against itself; for the beginning and end is the present. It speaks, and it is finished; but belief speaks and then applies itself, and when it finds the answer, it becomes wisdom. Now here is the difference. When man speaks, he either speaks the truth or he lies. For instance, when I say I believe that there is such a place as London, do I tell the truth or give my opinion? If I ever was in London and should say, “I know there is such a place as London,” I lie, for I cannot see it, and it may be destroyed by fire or in some other way. But if I should say, “I knew there was such a city called London a year ago, for I was there,” that is wisdom. But to say, “I know there is a place called London now,” may be true and may be false, for it admits a doubt - and if these differences are not made, man gets into trouble.
For instance, you feel a little out of sorts and sick, and you call a physician. You say, “I am sick and want you to help me.” The physician says, “How do you feel?” Now apply the wisdom here. Say to him, “Tell me how I feel, and then you will convince me that you have some wisdom.” For his knowledge of your case depends entirely upon the application. If his knowledge depends upon your telling him, then there is no wisdom. But when you apply your wisdom to the thing spoken of, this is knowledge, and it becomes wisdom; for all doubts are gone, and there is no belief or opinion.
The difference between myself and the medical faculty is in the application of what we know. What they know is just nothing, and what I know is what I feel - and my wisdom is in the knowledge of applying my senses to the thing that produced the sensation. I enter a room that is hot. I feel the heat, and it affects me. You do the same; and both are affected. I know that heat is the cause. Now this knowledge of heat and the knowledge of my feeling produces the state called wisdom. But your knowledge of heat is not sufficient to put you in possession of the fact that your feeling is the effect of heat. So your knowledge is based on a belief, and this belief - not being wisdom - makes you nervous; for you want wisdom (or harmony).
So you call a physician, and his wisdom - like yours - is opinion; and he tries to find the cause - so he admits a cause. Experiments are now tried on you; for in his ignorance, he believes it must originate in you. So in the confusion he and you get up another effect, which is the reaction of your acts - and you give it a name. He being blind, leading the blind - you both fall into the ditch.
Now I think I have carried you along through this voyage and have now once more landed you on the shore of investigation. Now I ask if you can tell me what it is to get wisdom. I think I hear you say, “It is applying the name of what you do not know to the thing spoken of. Illustrate.”
I will. I ask you if you've ever heard of a dwarf, and you say, “Yes.”
“Can you tell me what it is and how it looks?”
You say, “No, I do not know what the word means.”
So I say, “Come with me, and I will apply the word to the thing.”
So I lead you up to Commodore Mutt and say, “This is a little dwarf.”
Now as your senses are attached to the word, before you see the matter (or thing), when I feel your senses (or mind) in communication with the matter - out comes another element called wisdom. So true wisdom cannot be changed; and to get wisdom requires the application of science; for science is wisdom put into practice. Now do you think I understand?
I will answer in the words of Jesus, “Oh, Israel, the Lord thy God is one God, and to love the Lord thy God with all thy might, etc., and thy neighbor as thyself.” And the Scribe said, “Thou hast answered truly, for there is but one God, and to love him is more than all burnt offerings.” Then Jesus said to him, “Thou art not far from the kingdom of heaven.”
This God was to put this wisdom into practice; and to know that was more than all the offerings of the priests and wisdom of the wise. To know it is heaven - and the wisdom gives the happiness.