The conflict with ignorance must be a world wide manifestation. Not a single nation can boast that it is sufficiently enlightened. No one can find sufficient strength to overcome ignorance in single combat. Knowledge must be universal and upheld in full cooperation. The paths of communication know no barriers; so, too, the paths of knowledge must blossom in the exchange of ideas. It should not be thought that somewhere enough has been done for education. Knowledge is so much an expanding process that continual renovation of methods is required. It is frightful to see petrified brains which do not admit new attainments. No one inclined to negation can be called a scientist. Science is free, honest, and fearless. Science can instantly alter and elucidate the problems of the Universe. Science is beautiful and therefore infinite. Science cannot stand prohibitions, prejudices, and superstitions. Science can find the great even in quests of the small. Inquire of great scientists how many times must stupendous discoveries have been made in the process of routine observations. The eye was open, and the brain was not dust laden. The path of those who know how to investigate freely will be the path of the future. Actually, the battle with ignorance is as undeferrable as that with dissolution and corruption. Not easy is the battle with dark ignorance, it has many allies; it is sheltered in many countries and is covered with various garments. One needs to be supplied with both courage and patience, for the battle with ignorance is a battle with chaos."
Already five centuries before our era there came from the East the blessed words, "Ignorance is the most heinous crime." Later on the great hermits of the first centuries of Christianity decreed that "ignorance is hell." Truly, all fratricidal crimes have their origin in this dark abyss, and the world is filled with lies and darkness which further the most ugly, the most cruel, and abhorrent evil deeds.
To swallow food does not yet mean to live. Likewise, to be literate does not mean to be enlightened. Literacy is natural nutriment, but we see that just as food may be either useful or harmful, so can signs of literacy be used by both Light and darkness. Enlightenment and culture are synonymous. In both is contained readiness for infinite learning. In the furnace of such a constant renewal of consciousness the very essence of man is purified. Through this honest and unlimited labor of learning, people are ennobled and begin to understand the concept of service to humanity and to the world. A true scholar has an open eye and unfettered thought. But just as everything in life, the eye and thought must be trained. From the first steps of education, an enlightened approach and broadening of the horizon should be laid in the foundation of primary schooling. Knowledge must be freed from conventional limitations. Knowledge is the path to joy, but joy is a special wisdom.
The scientist and the artist know the meaning of the word inspiration. They know what perceptivity is, which opens, to them new refined forms and reveals subtle energies previously unnoticed or perhaps forgotten. From remote ages came the realization that thought is energy, that thought is light-bearing. Very long ago certain people knew that thought can be suggested or, rather, transmitted. But even such an old axiom has only lately entered customary scientific thought, before the very eyes of the present generation. We all witnessed how quite recently the ignoramuses scoffed at so-called magnetism and hypnotism. It went so far that the same force under various names was accepted differently. Mesmerism was ridiculed and condemned, but the same force under the name of hypnotism received a certain right to existence. There are peculiar reasons why some pills have to be gilded and medicine vials have to be adorned with special labels. And it can be understood why some chemicals, which are now fully recognized, had to be veiled by the alchemists under the names eagle, phoenix, and many other symbols.
We all remember how when the Neurological Institute was founded by Prof. Bekhterev every skeptic ridiculed his experiments in thought transmission. The fact that the name of Bekhterev was widely known did not save him from derision and not even from all kinds of suspicion. Ignoramuses organized a whispering campaign, implying that a whole institution could not be devoted only to the research of the nervous system and thought. They whispered about some political intrigues, about some romantic infatuations, and even that Bekhterev had become insane. Such were the colossal allegations invented by spasms of ignorance. I remember how during this whispering campaign we sadly remembered the book by Gaston Tissandier, Martyrs of Science. Verily, where are the limits of patience when during the present generation a certain Academy called the great Edison a charlatan for his invention of the phonograph, and some universities did not admit women to higher education. I repeat that this happened not during the medieval ages, but in our time; and these actions were committed not by illiterate savages, but by people bearing the conventional official label of science. Let us not enumerate the endless row of true martyrs of science, but since we mentioned the persecution of education for women, let us also recall the case of the mathematical genius Sophie Kovalevsky, who was not admitted to the Russian university and yet received world recognition for her works in higher mathematics. And how many excellent scholars and physicians can be recalled who, being persecuted by their ignorant colleagues, were even compelled to leave their own country.
The world is proud of the name of the great physiologist Pavlov; everywhere are being affirmed his formulas of the teaching of conditioned reflexes and his genius in solving other problems. But even this glorious international achievement, crowned by the Nobel prize, called forth in certain circles a contemptuous shrugging of the shoulders. Among the latter one will also discover ignorance. Verily, no robes, no dead scholastic labels can cover human hatred, envy, and dull bigotry. It is far easier to combat illiteracy than to annihilate the sinister hydra of hatred of man with all its attributes of envy, doubt, vulgarity, and slander, and all those hidden campaigns, which the forces of darkness so cunningly manipulate. The forces of evil and the forces of ignorance — these shameful synonyms — are closely united. Of all feelings, love and hatred are the most unifying and powerful.
True, in spite of all the avid attempts of ignorance, enlightened knowledge progresses in the whole world. Let us remember the recent achievements which gave joy to the world of education. Let us remember the remarkable discoveries of the great biologist Sir Jagadis Bose concerning the life of plants. Professor A.H. Compton states that human thought is the most important factor in the world. Prof. S.Metalnikoff of the Pasteur Institute conducts most important research in the field of immunity and the immortality of Protozoa. Dr. Kotick investigates the transfer of sensitiveness. Dr. Walter Stempell of the University of Muenster proves the existence of invisible radiation coming from all living organisms. Dr. Paul Dobler of Heilbronn University asserts the existence of Earth's radiations and their relation to human magnetism, which has up to recently been ridiculed. Prof. Harry M.Johnson of the University of Virginia arrives at instructive conclusions regarding insanity. Dr. Otrian, in charge of a meteorological station in Germany, investigates the influence of atmospheric manifestations. Abbe More, the French astronomer, makes most interesting deductions regarding sunspots. The American biologist Bernard Proctor investigates special conditions of life on heights. The French scientist Dr. Levi-Valency warns of possible epidemics of insanity. Dr. Riese experiments with the effect of rhythm. Dr. Bernard Reid, a British scientist, draws a parallel between ancient medicine and modern vitamin research. A young Hungarian scientist discovers rays which cause invisibility. Everyone knows of the experiments of Professors Richet and Geley and the conclusions of Sir Oliver Lodge. Prof. V. van Haas of Leiden University proves the impossibility of absolute zero. Dr. Cannon of Harvard makes deductions regarding the reasons for the element of luck in scientific discoveries. The chemist Midgley gives a bold prognosis of future discoveries. Prof. J.B. Rhine and Prof. William McDougall reach astonishing results at Duke University in the field of extrasensory perceptions and thought-transference. So many wonderful achievements! Thus, in every country there are enlightened seekers who untiringly and fearlessly pioneer in the field of science. And yet those great men remain alone and are compelled, each in his own field, to overcome undeserved obstacles and at times public opinion.
One can quote pages of research conducted recently which widen the frame of conventional thinking. Actually, nature itself comes to the aid of every thinker. Sunspots with all the deductions about them, of which the greatest authorities of our time. Sir James Jeans of Cambridge and Dr. C.G. Abbot of the Smithsonian Institution, remind us that the time is not far off when astrology, which is so greatly ridiculed, will turn out to be nothing else but a formula of astrochemistry and thus another great branch of science will be freed from calumnies. People will understand that they live surrounded by powerful chemisms and that they themselves represent the most refined and powerful chemical laboratory. Everyone has read of the recently conducted experiments with the chemism of human secretions and with radiations from the finger tips and that some radiations of certain people were so powerful that they could kill harmful bacteria. Let us also remember the experiments of Prof. Yourevitch which prove that the energy radiated by man is a conductor and a unifier for certain elements which otherwise could not be combined. And did not the experiments of Keeley, who was so unjustly persecuted, prove the same? Thus the investigation of human radiations and of psychic energy imperatively calls humanity to the forthcoming remarkable accomplishments.
Ignoramuses like to scoff at the yogis of India. For them, walking on fire, sitting upon water, swallowing the strongest poisons, the stopping or acceleration of the pulse at will, burial alive and return to life after several weeks — all these are but skillful tricks and charlatanism. Yet in the very positive and well known magazine "Modern Review" there is an article, supported by photographs, about fire-walking in Mysore. The journal quotes this in connection with the demonstrations in London of the Kashmiri, Khuda Buks, widely announced through the press of the whole world. Sitting upon the water of the Ganges was regarded as charlatanism, and even cautious people who had witnessed it whispered, "Who knows? Perhaps there was some support under the water." And quite recently the British press reported the case of a woman who changed her weight to such an extent that such a manifestation upon the water was quite easy for her, due to the change of polarity. The whole world was amazed to read about the striking phenomena, from the point of view of conventional science, of Therese Neumann of Bavaria, and at present the newspapers are filled with astounding accounts of Shanti Devi in Delhi, a nine-year-old girl. That remarkable case has been verified by many reliable people.
From Latvia comes news of the extraordinary ability of a girl of eight to read thoughts, which was described in a whole brochure. Recently there also have been recorded indisputable cases of the reception of radio waves without a receiver, and the astonishing faculty of two Italian boys to see through walls and other opaque objects. No doubt, during the time of the Inquisition all these unfortunate people would have been burnt at the stake owing to their unusual abilities. But even nowadays the man who could catch radio waves directly had a taste of being in a lunatic asylum!
Let us also not forget the remarkable clairvoyance and clairaudience of Joan of Arc, who saved France, but who for her abilities was burnt at the stake by her ignorant contemporaries. And even at present not only the persons who are in possession of these extraordinary faculties but those who have conducted research in this field have been subjected by ignoramuses to all kinds of persecutions. Let us also remember the unjust derision to which the Society for Psychical Research was so often subjected. Every nucleus of a new unprejudiced scientific conquest is persecuted. This creates an unusually ugly spectacle. On one side new educational institutions are being opened, which by their very aspect seem to invite new research; yet on the other side every unusual fact which did not as yet enter into the elementary textbooks is not only ridiculed but even becomes an object for all kinds of attacks. It means that the hydra of ignorance is to be found not only in illiteracy but also in fossilized perception and in hatred of man.
"Every denial of Truth is ignorant and harmful not only for the denier himself but also spatially. Antagonism to Truth infects space, but there is a still more loathsome action when people after having once realized Truth later shrink from it. Such a retreat into darkness is madness! It is possible to find periods in the history of humanity when, after particles of the Truth had been already grasped, certain pseudo-teachers, because of extreme ignorance, tried to again conceal from people the immutable position of things; this resulted in what will some time be regarded as shameful pages of history. The usurpers offered no proofs, but commanded that the obvious be denied. It is as if denial of the sun's existence were prescribed, because someone weak of eyesight could not look at the sun!: Some, ignorant of them, through egotism forbade others to know the reality. Let people remember how many recessions into darkness have taken place in different ages. Perhaps such recollections will move humanity toward justice and honesty."
Thus, everyone, for whom education and culture are not empty words, should, in his own field, fight ignorance as far as his strength allows. Let no one say that he has no possibility of doing so — this would be untrue. Alas! Open and hidden ignorance in all its deception and cunning exists everywhere. In every household a clear mind can discern where dust and filth have to be removed. And at present when in the world guns thunder and poisonous gases compete with each other, precisely now, the combating of ignorance is especially needed. A defense of the best, of the most beautiful, and of the most enlightened will be needed.
If someone does not succeed in his beneficent efforts, still this will be efforts and not abstract intentions. Besides, in every effort there is already an element of action. Therefore every effort is already creativeness for good. No doubt some agents of ignorance will whisper that precisely now words about culture and enlightenment are out of place. This is their typical trick, they try to find at every moment in life a reason why exactly at that hour striving to culture and enlightenment are untimely. By this formula the servitors of ignorance betray themselves. Precisely good, culture, and enlightenment are always timely.
There cannot be a state of consciousness in which it is unfitting and untimely to be humane. And only misanthropy could whisper about such untimeliness; misanthropy which, in the darkness of its lair, always dreams of turning mankind into monsters devouring each other.
Verily, from small to great, everyone can, and is, duty bound to bring his mite to the cause of combating ignorance. Uniting in groups and single-handedly everyone can somewhere put an end to the deriding monster of ignorance. Every labor already contains an effort for perfectment and enlightenment. Only ignorance can belittle labor as such and can shamelessly scoff at the quests for knowledge. In rightful indignation against every act of ignorance, against every ignorant negation, the worker for culture will find a vital thought and a powerful word, and will mark by beautiful deeds the victorious path of enlightenment.
Glory to the defenders of culture! Glory to the heroes of labor! Glory to the fearless!
June 10, 1936