Some Of Life's Relations
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
"Have the honor due In living out thy nature."—Robert Browning.
EXPERIENCE marks man the superior animal. It is only through experience that we can know. Even the instincts are mere impulses of human nature, and we can know what they are and how they work, not before they have occurred, but thereafter. So, also, innate intuitions of truth obtain as impulsive activities of the self in mind, and that the intuitions are truths can be determined alone by experience. Knowledge is an established reaction to the real contents of experience, but experience only can give these contents. Consciousness is a first form of experience, but neither the consciousness as such nor the self as a self comes to recognition prior to the experience of consciousness and of self.
KNOWING IS AN OUTCOME OF EXPERIENCE.
You can know nothing save as you have experienced a definite something, and when you have done this, you must know what you know or have known. The worm is acted upon by outside influences, for example. The worm re-acts-acts in response to the influence. It may be that the worm will thereafter pre-act in order to prevent such action upon it by out-side forces. Indeed, under given conditions, the worm will always do so. If the conditions vary, the worm-action will vary. The worm's nature simply expresses itself in impulses — re-actions induced in every instance by the outside force, but caused by the nature which is itself. It is error, however, to say that because the worm acts differently under differing conditions — to prevent action upon it by fire, say, a second time — that the worm knows. Something, indeed, does know: Nature knows; the Universal Mind knows for the worm, but the worm does not know in the Universal Mind. The thinker knows his thoughts, and the thoughts act according to the thinker's nature; but the thoughts do not know themselves or their actions in the thinker. So, the worm does not know.
Higher in the scale of life, the being there acted upon seems to individually represent Nature in knowing that it is acted upon. In the former case we say, "Instinct is at work." In the latter case we detect the beginnings of intelligence. The dog has the primitive elements of experience, and knows in a measure corresponding thereto.
Finally, when man is acted upon by outside influences, he knows what is going on: that something is going on, and that the going-on relates to himself. Moreover, he can mentally affirm the thing just written. He knows that he knows. And he can also affirm this last statement. He knows that he knows that he knows. It is this reiteration of this knowing that makes man capable of experience in its fullest scope.