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The Wisdom of William Penn

Philosophical and Theosophical
Thoughts by the Founder of Pennsylvania
 
 
William Penn
 
 
  
 
Penn was born in October 1644. He died at 73, in 1718. 
 
 
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A 2012 Editorial Note:
 
William Penn, a Quaker, dedicated
his life to help create a better world.
In this he succeeded. Penn was one
of the pioneers of the United States
as a nation, both on the outer plane and
at the inner or spiritual realm. A man
of wisdom, the Founder of Pennsylvania 
 left truly theosophical axioms in writing.
 
We reproduce below a selection of
the thoughts and sentences in his
famous texts “Fruits of Solitude” and
More Fruits of Solitude”, as published in
the volume “The Autobiography of Benjamin
Franklin, The Journal of John Woolman,
Fruits of Solitude of William Penn”, Harvard
Classics, P.F. Collier & Son, New York, 1909, 416 pp. 
 
After each fragment, we indicate in parenthesis the
number of the page. With the exception of the first
quotation, all subtitles are preserved as in the 1909 edition.
 
(Carlos Cardoso Aveline)
 
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Time

There is nothing of which we are apt to be so lavish as of Time, and about which we ought to be more solicitous; since without it we can do nothing in this World. Time is what we want most, but what, alas! we use worst; and for which God [1] will certainly most strictly reckon with us, when Time shall be no more.
 
It is of that Moment to us in Reference to both Worlds, that I can hardly wish any Man better, than that he would seriously consider what he does with is Time: How and to what Ends he employs it; and what Returns he makes to God, his Neighbor and Himself for it. (333)
 
Truth
 
Where thou art Obliged to speak, be sure to speak the Truth; For Equivocation is half way to Lying, as Lying, the whole way to Hell. (353)
 
Justice
 
Believe nothing against another but upon good Authority; Nor report what may hurt another, unless it be a greater hurt to others to conceal it.(353)
 
Temper
 
Nothing does Reason more Right, than the Coolness of those that offer it: For Truth often suffers more by the Heat of its Defenders, than from the Arguments of its Opposers. (353)
 
Zeal ever follows an Appearance of Truth, and the Assured are too apt to be warm; but it is their weak side in Argument; Zeal being better shown against Sin, than [against] Persons or their Mistakes. (353)
 
Complacency

Never assent merely to please others. For that is, besides Flattery, oftentimes Untruth; and discovers a Mind liable to be servile and base; Nor contradict to vex others, for that shows an ill Temper, and provokes, but profits no Body. (353-354)

Shifts
 
Do not accuse others to excuse thy self; for that is neither Generous nor Just. But let Sincerity and Ingenuity be thy Refuge, rather than Craft and Falsehood: for Cunning borders very near upon Knavery. Wisdom never uses nor wants it. Cunning to Wise, is as an Ape to a Man.  (354)
 
Respect
 
Never esteem any Man, or thy self, the more for Money; nor think the meaner of thy self or another for want of it; Virtue being the just Reason of respecting, and the want of it, of slighting any one. (361-362)
 
Show is not Substance: Realities Govern Wise Men. (362)
 
Unless Virtue guides us, our Choice must be wrong. (362)
 
Of the Government of Thoughts
 
Man being made a Reasonable, and so a Thinking Creature, there is nothing more Worthy of his Being, than the Right Direction and Employment of his Thoughts; since upon This, depends both his Usefulness to the Publick, and his own present and future Benefit in all Respects.
 
The Consideration of this, has often obliged me to Lament the Unhappiness of Mankind, that through too great a Mixture and Confusion of Thoughts, have been hardly able to make a Right or Mature Judgment of Things.
 
To this is owing the various Uncertainty and Confusion we see in the World, and the Intemperate Zeal that occasions them.
 
To this also is to be attributed the imperfect Knowledge we have of Things, and the slow Progress we make in attaining to a Better; like the Children of Israel that were forty Years upon their Journey, from Egypt to Canaan, which might have been performed in Less than One. (396-397)
 
Moderation
 
It were an happy Day if Men could bound and qualifie their Resentments with Charity to the Offender: For then our Anger would be without Sin, and better convict and edifie the Guilty; which alone can make it lawful.
 
Not to be provok'd is best: But if mov'd, never correct till the Fume is spent; For every Stroke our Fury strikes, is sure to hit our selves at last.
 
If we did but observe the Allowances our Reason makes upon Reflection, when our Passion is over, we could not want a Rule how to behave our selves again in the like Occasions.
 
We are more prone to Complain than Redress, and to Censure than Excuse.
 
It is next to unpardonable, that we can so often Blame what we will not once mend. It shews, we know, but will not do our Master's Will. 
 
They that censure, should Practice: Or else let them have the first stone, and the last too. (363)
 
Bearing
 
A man in Business must put up many Affronts, if he loves his own Quiet.
 
We must not pretend to see all that we see, if we would be easie.
 
It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.
 
A vindictive Temper is not only uneasie to others, but to them that have it. (356)
 
Personal Cautions

Despise no Body, nor no Condition, lest it come to be thine own.

Haste makes the work that Caution prevents.
 
Opportunities should never be lost, because they can hardly be regained.
 
Humility and Knowledge in poor Cloaths, excel Pride and Ignorance in costly attire.
 
Neither despise, nor oppose, what thou dost not understand. (365)
 
Balance

It is too common an Error, to invert the Order of Things; by making an End of that which is a Means, and a Means of that which is an End.
 
Religion and Government escape not this Mischief; The first is too often made a Means instead of an End; the other an End instead of a Means. (365)
 
Ignorance
 
It is admirable to consider how many Millions of People come into, and go out of the World, Ignorant of themselves, and of the World they have lived in. If one went to see Windsor-Castle, or Hampton-Court, it would be strange not to observe and remember the Situation, the Building, the Gardens, Fountains, etc. that make up the Beauty and Pleasure of such a Seat? And yet few people know themselves; No, not their own bodies, the Houses of their Minds; the most curious Structure of the World; a living walking Tabernacle; Nor the World of which it was made, and out of which it is fed; which would be so much our Benefit, as well as our Pleasure, to know. We cannot doubt of this when we are told that the Invisible Things of God [2] are brought to light by the Things that are seen; and consequently we read our Duty in them as often as we look upon them, to him that is the Great and Wise Author of them, if we look as we should do.
 
The World is certainly a great and stately Volume of natural Things; and may be not improperly styled the Hieroglyphicks of a better [world] : But, alas! how very few Leaves of it do we seriously turn over! (337)
 
Rules of Conversation
 
Avoid Company where it is not profitable [3] or necessary; and in those Occasions speak little, and last.
 
Silence is Wisdom, where Speaking is Folly; and always safe.
 
Some are so Foolish as to interrupt and anticipate those who speak, instead of hearing and thinking before they answer; which is uncivil as well as silly.
 
If thou thinkest twice, before thou speakest once, thou wilt speak twice the better for it.
 
Better say nothing than not to the Purpose. And to speak pertinently, consider both what it fit, and when it is fit to speak.
 
In all Debates, let Truth be thy Aim, not Victory, or an unjust Interest: And endeavor to gain, rather than to expose thy Antagonist. (352)
 
Knowledge

Knowledge is the Treasure, but Judgement [4] the Treasurer of a Wise Man.

He that has more Knowledge than Judgement is made for another Man’s use more than his own.
 
There are some Men like Dictionaries; to be lookt into upon occasions, but have no Connection, and are little entertaining.
 
Less knowledge than Judgment will always have the advantage upon the Injudicious knowing Man. A Wise Man makes what he learns his own, ’tother [5] shows he’s but a Copy, or a Collection at most. (355)
 
Of Praise or Applause
 
We are too apt to love Praise, but not to Deserve it.
 
But if we would Deserve it, we must love Virtue more than that. (400)
 
Ostentation
 
Do what good thou canst unknown; and be not vain of what ought rather to be felt, than seen.
 
The Humble, in the Parable of the Day of Judgement, forgot their good Works; Lord, when did we do so and so?
 
He that does Good, for Good’s sake, seeks neither Praise nor Reward; tho’ sure of both at last. (375)
 
Compleat Virtue
 
Content not thy self that thou art Virtuous in the general; For one Link being wanting, the Chain is defective. (375)
 
Friendship
 
There can be no Friendship where there is no Freedom. Friendship loves a free Air, and will not be penned up in straight and narrow Enclosures. It will speak freely, and act so too; and take nothing ill where no ill is meant; nay, where it is, it will easily forgive, and forget too, upon small Acknowledgements. (350)
 
Qualities of a Friend
 
A true Friend unbosoms freely, advises justly, assists readily, adventures boldly, takes all patiently, defends courageously, and continues a Friend unchangeably. These being the Qualities of a Friend, we are to find them before we chuse one.
 
The covetous, the Angry, the Proud, the Jealous, the Talkative, cannot but make ill Friends, as well as the False.
 
….. Let Virtue bound thy Friendship; Else it is not Friendship, but an Evil Confederacy. (350)
 
Union of Friends
 
They that love beyond the World, cannot be separated by it.
 
Death cannot kill, what never dies.
 
Nor can Spirits ever be divided that love and live in the same Divine Principle; the Root and Record of their friendship. (402)
 
 
NOTES:
 
[1] The word “God”, in singular form, must be read in theosophy as “Impersonal Universal Law”. Another possibility is to see it as meaning the whole of Nature, in the manner of Baruch Spinoza.  In this particular context, however, it can also mean Atma, the higher self, one’s own spiritual essence, which belongs to the whole universe.  All personalized images of God as a particular “being” are but symbols and metaphors, although ill-advised people take it for a literal fact. See Letter X (10), and Letter CXXXIV (134)  in “The Mahatma Letters”, TUP edition, Pasadena, California, or TPH, Adyar, India. In the Philippines TPH Chronological edition, these are the Letters 88 and 30, respectively. (C. C. A.)
 
[2] Id est, the impersonal, anonymous, transcendent, universal, Law of Nature. (C. C. A.)
 
[3] Profitable; the word does not apply exclusively to professional activities, as every dialogue and conversation should be morally and spiritually “profitable”, or helpful, not harmful. (C. C. A.)
 
[4] Judgement; id est, Discernment. (C. C. A.)
 
[5] ’tother; “the other”. The expression belongs to Middle English, the English language as used from about 1100 to 1500. (C. C. A.)

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On the role of the esoteric movement in the ethical awakening of mankind during the 21st century, see the book “The Fire and Light of Theosophical Literature”, by Carlos Cardoso Aveline.  
 
 
 
Published in 2013 by The Aquarian Theosophist, the volume has 255 pages and can be obtained through Amazon Books.
 
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The Wisdom of William Penn




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