The celebrated philosopher Baruch Spinoza discourses on reason,
and states that reason per se is not a reliable guide to truth.
I am here, Spinoza.
I desire to write a few lines, if you will permit. I need not say that I have never written you before, for you will know from the difficulty that I have in writing that such must be the case. No, I am a stranger to this method of communication, and to you, and to me it has come in very recent days as a wonderful revelation.
I do not intend to write upon a subject of any great truth connected with our spirit life, but merely to say sufficient to introduce myself, in the hope that when I am better acquainted with the laws governing this method, I may be permitted to come to you and write of those things which I have learned since becoming a spirit, and which to learn when on earth would have been not only very desirable, but very important.
I was, when on earth, a philosopher, so-called, and gave many years of my life to the search for truth relating not only to the natural world, but to what I conceived to be truth connected with that world or existence outside of, and beyond the sense world; and in my researches I was guilty of many speculations which I now see have no foundation upon which I had built many conclusions and postulates. I had only the intellect, supplied in its workings by the knowledge that came from the phenomena of the purely physical and, as I thought, by that great faculty called reason, which, as a fact, is a wonderful faculty, but in its exercise it is dependent upon, first, its own development, and next, whether that development has been along the lines of and in accord with truth.
A reason merely because it is a reason, is not a guide that can be depended on, for reasoning in an erroneous way must necessarily lead to conclusions of error, and merely calling or believing that these conclusions are the results of reason, does not justify the belief that the conclusions must be correct and veracious.
Reason can be mistaken and featured by error, just as can the senses; and, hence, if you read the writings of the philosophers and metaphysicians, and also scientists, you will find that things declared and accepted by these men at one age, have been repudiated and rejected by the successors of these men in later ages.
And so, when I wrote, and I wrote considerably, and was very largely read by what was considered to be the thinking class of men, and especially those whose researches led them along a similar line of study and subject matter as my own, I declared certain doctrines or principles connected with these metaphysical and philosophical matters that I now know to be wholly erroneous, but which at the time I firmly believed to be things of verity, because largely they were based on what I thought was the true workings of reason, together with some little empirical knowledge.
From this I do not mean to decry the value and importance of the faculty of reason, for it has been the great factor operating progress of mankind, but like other finite faculties. it is subject to erroneous exercise and cannot be depended on as a thing infallible.
The common experience of men has shown that men who have sincerely and earnestly and constantly exercised their reasoning faculties, have arrived at different and contradictory conclusions as to the same principles or subject matter, and those conclusions have been entirely satisfactory and convincing to the respective persons. Now it is apparent that in such instances all of these men could not possibly be correct in their conclusions, and in many cases not any of them were correct, yet they were all founded on the reason, properly and intelligently exercised, as they supposed.
No, reason is fallible, and it is not a thing of itself, but dependent upon environments and sometimes inherited or preconceived ideas of what truth must be. It is the great friend and defender of speculation, and without it speculation could not exist, and so often is speculation deceived by its friend. Truth is that which exists as an unchangeable condition or fact, and speculation can neither create nor destroy truth; and reason is a means which may be used to reach truth when knowledge does not exist. But the fact that reason exists does not mean that it is always used in that way that leads to the discovery of truth.
Reason, as I am now justified in saying, is but a creature of God, just as is everything else in His universe; and when given to man with the freedom of exercising it as man wills, is subject to all the possibilities of defective exercise that every other faculty possessed by man is subject to, and is no more infallible in its nature than are these other faculties.
But it is the greatest faculty that man has as a creature of the Almighty, and without it, some of the wise of earth have said, man would be no better than, or different from the brute animal. But this is not quite true, for man is possessed with that which is really man himself that the brute animal does not have, and that is a soul made in the image of its Creator. It may be said that reason is merely an appendage of the soul; and I have justification in asserting that the soul in its progress, can do without or cast aside this reason, without doing harm to itself because, as I have learned in progressing in the spirit life, the soul may and does arrive at that degree of development, where reason is not necessary or even used by it in its acquirement of truth.
I now believe, and without speculation, that reason is a gift to man to be useful to him only in his earth life and in a portion of this spirit life, until the soul comes into a knowledge of truth by the exercise of the mere desire to know. A knowledge of the whys and wherefores is not required, but it knows because it knows, just as in your earth life you have a knowledge of the sunlight, even if you do not know the why and the wherefore that produce that light.
Well, my new-found friend, I have written more than I intended, but as I continued I found the desire to write increase, and I fear that I have trespassed too long and pray your forgiveness. Sometime I should like to come and write of the errors of some of the teachings of earth, or rather of the truths along the line of the subject matter of my earthly writings, as I now know them to be.
I am in what is called the intellectual planes of the Fifth Sphere and very near the entrance to the Sixth Sphere, in which I hope to be in a short time. It has been a long time since I left the earth life, and the early period of my existence in the spirit world was one of stagnation, and, as I now see, merely because I brought with me many of the doctrines of the philosophy of my earth life, and as a consequence I continued my research along the ideas and ways that I had pursued as a mortal.
The time thus spent was long and continued until I became convinced. that speculation in the spirit life is not very different. and arrives at no more satisfactory end than speculation on earth, and then I stopped speculating and waited for something, I know not what. And strange to say, that which came to me was from a spirit. who had never heard of my philosophy. or any other philosophy on earth, but merely accepted truth as it gradually came to him, without knowing why or how. And I soon learned that he had a greater knowledge of the verities than had I, and so I adopted his way of receiving truth, and since then I have been progressing and am now advancing with accelerated speed - all to my happiness and intellectual enjoyment. Good-bye,
Your friend, Spinoza