Truth is forever the same, but for imperfect men it changes from day to day
and century to century. Up until recently, men said: “The earth stands still
and the sun moves. We know, for we see and feel that the earth is still, and
we see the sun rolling through the sky above our heads.” Men were like
children in the train, believing that the trees are moving past the window.
Then one day we were shown it was the earth that turned round and made the
sun seem to move. This was a step toward truth. Once all believed that
slavery and inequality were just – that it had always been and would be so.
Some must slave and some enjoy. But human equality was mentioned, and men
fought for it. This was also a step toward truth. The next step will be to
make equality real by making knowledge universal. For now, the many own too
little while the few own too much. All are technically free, and that is
thought to be just. All laws defend it. That condition will change and the
change will be another step toward truth.
“On three things stands the world,” said Simon the Just; “on law, on
worship, and on charity.” You might add a thousand things, but better cut it
down to one. The world stands on truth. The greater the truth, the more
difficult for the small mind to accept it. A moth, dazzled, is drawn to its
death by candlelight. Man uses that candle for reading, but man cannot look
at the greater light of the sun. The little truths we use, the big truths
dazzle and frighten us. The child is taught that two and two equal four, and
the angles of any triangle are equal to any two right angles. The bad are
punished and the good rewarded, here for a certainty, elsewhere perhaps.
These truths we accept and handle – easily little truths for little minds,
and greater truths as the mind of man grows.
Even simple truths can frighten us. For instance, the simple fact that time
never began and cannot possibly end, or that there is no limit to space. For
after the end of time, time must go on as it must have gone on forever
before its “beginning,” – if it had an official beginning! Space, the field
in which suns and planets like ours roll, cannot have any end or boundary.
For you ask, “What is beyond that boundary solid wall or nothingness?” The
solid wall is impossible, for how far would that reach? And nothingness does
not exist. Time must last forever, and space cannot possibly have an end but
such simple truth frightens us and we turn back to the hands on the clock
that tick off our limited lives and to our little earth fields with their
fences and taxes and thank God for limitation the limitless is the sun’s
light; we cannot stand it. What is truth? It is the reflection of knowledge,
and knowledge is the measure of civilization.