Knowledge is information about the various things of the world derived from the study of books, from the observation of men and manners and from carefully watching the different phenomena of Nature. Knowledge is not the same as learning, for all knowledge obtained from experience and observation is quite independent of learning which is derived from study in schools and colleges.
Knowledge is not a special gift or property of any particular class. It may belong to the poorest men, just as it may belong to the richest, or an exceptionally wealthy man may be without it, but a very poor man may be its fortunate possessor. No amount of wealth or influence can procure knowledge for anyone ; it is not a thing to be bought in the market. It has to be gained by diligence and labour and anyone who wills may have it. Like wealth or beauty it cannot be destroyed by time ; it will last as mankind will exist.
Knowledge places unbounded powers at the disposal of a man. One of the most useful powers springing from knowledge is that by which a man controls himself and others. A knowledge of the different passions to which a man is subject and their harmful consequences enables him to detect these weaknesses in him and to find not means to keep them in check. He can thus become an ideal man and useful member of society. With the help of knowledge, again, he can do immense good to his fellow-creatures by pointing out to them their errors and the means of correction. He can thus keep many, who would otherwise have gone to ruin, out of harm’s way. In fact, it is knowledge which makes a man the leader of men and nations, a poet, a philosopher, a statesman and what not.
Knowledge has invested man with mastery over Nature. The different elements in Nature have been brought under subjection and made to serve mankind. Scientific inventions and discoveries, which have added so much to the civilization of the world, are nothing but the results of knowledge. What are the invention of the steam engine and the establishment of railways, the invention of electricity and its application to telegraphy, telephony and a host of other things, the invention of the mariner’s compass and the aeroplane, which have contributed so much to the wealth and power of the world, but the outcome of knowledge?
No amount of wealth or physical strength could have made these possible. Knowledge alone has rendered these possible. Can anything, then, be considered to be more powerful than knowledge? It is apparent, therefore, that the power which knowledge brings with it is infinitely superior to that which springs from wealth or physical strength. A wealthy man may be honoured and respected, but honour and respect are limited. A man of knowledge, on the other hand, commands universal reverence; A thing which is capable of making mighty kings and emperors yield is certainly a mighty power.
Such is the power of knowledge that, armed with this, a weak man can wield his influence over a physically stronger man can have mastery over a man thousand times richer. Is it then to be doubted that knowledge is power and that of the highest type?