The philosophical injunction, "Know thyself," first met with in the school-day copy-books, always seemed particularly silly to me. Without understanding, I questioned in an unthinking way, Who knows as much about me as I myself? My likes and aversions, my hopes, ambitions, tastes, endeavors, defeats, victories, my unsuitable environment and the situation I would choose for myself had I control of my destiny,—how can any one not know more of himself than any other can know of him, no matter how wise?

Alas, how sure, how positive, how ignorant the uninstructed mortal thought can be! The things I could not possibly know of myself, until the light of self-examination should reveal them, were all important, while the absorbing acquaintance with personal desires, the never-ceasing study of means to gratify them, the continuous education in the line of pride of acquisition, and the development of artistic sensitiveness, all in a merely intellectual domain, were of little even relative value. Habits of invariable kindness, of scrupulous regard for the rights of others, the need of earning, and thus being rightly entitled to the possession of what we would have, consideration of one's position in the world and the duties arising from his place,—these important matters are not disclosed by the knowledge which is derived from self-centeredness; and it is clear that the supposed self-acquaintance which seems so obvious and certain is no knowledge at all, but ignorance,—ignorance so complete, so dense as to be quite unconscious and utterly unable upon its own initiative to seek enlightenment.

When the prophet Nathan related his parable about the misdoing of the rich man toward his poor neighbor, so far from recognizing himself as the offender, we are told that "David's anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the Lord liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die." Then, with Nathan's courageous "Thou art the man," came the awakening. In the beautiful language of the 51st Psalm, we see how comprehensive was the self-knowledge acquired at Nathan's hands. This prayer for the substitution of a rational self in place of the deformity which had been made plain to David, is a model for every mortal as he strives to escape from bondage to the carnally educated self. David's prayer, "Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice," was answered, for we read that he lived to "a good old age, full of days, riches, and honor."

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January 21, 1911

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