I have been thinking about Knowledge versus Knowing, having in mind some things I read in your book. While Knowledge is more an indirect manner of understanding the world, based on facts, Knowing is more intuitive and based on direct experience. As an engineer, as a rational person, I am relying on science to teach me facts and laws, to understand the mechanism of life, matter, medicine, physics, etc., on a reliable and authentic manner. But when I look around, mostly on social media, some people are living (and living well apparently) relying on personal beliefs only, and that becomes their ultimate truth. Sometimes even for myself I can observe that there are flexible boundaries between what I think and what is, so I am not better than others. So, from this perspective, how can we stick to the commitment of knowledge and what can we do more in our everyday life to achieve that?
The way I see it is that personal believes are based on our experience of life and the world, but that experience can, and often is, mistaken. Our experience of life is based almost exclusively on our conditioning – the kind of birth we had (natural, cesarean, etc.), the kind of parents, grandparents and teachers, first experiences, society, politics, etc., we experienced for the first 10 years of our life.
For example, if you had loving parents you will have a completely different experience of the world and yourself than if you had difficult and conflicted parents.
Also, as you know, we cannot rely on our senses for our believes because as wonderful and incredible as they are, they can only take a tiny aspect of the wholeness of the universe.
The simpler example is to look at the sunset…
We cannot rely on our experience, and, at the same time, we cannot deny it.
We need to find a balance between knowledge and experience.
If we want to know about the physical world, we need to study medicine, biology, chemistry, physics, etc.
If we want to know about the mental world, we need to study psychology, psychiatry, etc.
And from my point of view, if we want to know about the truth behind the apparent reality of what can be seen and touch, beyond the mental and physical world, we need to study spirituality.
Now, having said all these, we cannot completely let go of our common sense. There was a very important teacher centuries ago that said something like ‘even if the scriptures tell you (the scriptures for him were the most important source of knowledge) that fire is cold, do not believe them’.
Actually, in the spiritual world there is so much crime and abuse allowed precisely because ‘spiritual people’ (just to give it a name) very often let go of their common sense and trust too much what people in power, like gurus or teachers tell them.
And so, what to do? My direct experience tells me that the sun is moving but science says it is not.
Well, what I will say is: do not believe anything AT ALL, neither from your own experience nor from what other people, science or scripture tell you, but go deep into the study of anything you want/need to know, and then, after you have exhausted your study, trust in your conclusions… but with a clause:
‘This is my conclusion, today, based on my study and experience. But tomorrow, a new experience or discovery my appear, and so I need to be open, if need be, to change my conclusion.’
The clause is because, truly speaking, what can we really know?
I remember hearing that the 3 great discoveries of the 20 century are:
Einstein theory of relativity, Heisenberg principle of uncertainty and Kurt Gödel Theory of incompleteness.
Relativity, uncertainty and incompleteness… what can we truly know???
So, we can have some conclusions about what we deeply study, knowing that even that, is not final.
But what about the billion other things I will never have neither the time nor the interest in study?
To that we need to say: this is what other people/book/science/spirituality say.
I can see this with my son. He is often talking to me about politics and telling me that this person is good or that person is bad as if he knew. But everything he says are things he heard from his bunic. And so I keep telling him: ‘David, until you know for yourself because you have study it, instead of saying that this person is good/bad, say instead that bunicul says that this person is good/bad…’
Coming back to the beginning, when you say: ‘some people are living (and living well, apparently) on personal beliefs…’
Let others live their lives. You truly have no idea what is going on with others. What we see on social media is not even the tip of the iceberg, but more like the shadow of the tip.
For me, if you really want to know about others, just look around and see our society in general. We have so much, more than any human being have ever had in the whole history of human kind, and still, we suffer so much!
And the reason for it, I believe (based on my own conclusions), is because we rely way too much on our personal experiences and believes when it comes to the most basic questions a human being should ask (and so, because we believe we know, we don’t study):
Who am I, really?
What is the world?
Where are we going and for what? Or, why do we do what we do? Or Why do we think and feel the way we do?
Who or what created all these?
Why do we suffer? Is there a solution to it?
Is death truly the end of all?
My conclusion is: follow your intelligence; and trust only your experience after a deep study of a particular subject; and even then, be open to be ‘newly enchanted’. And whatever subject you don’t study (which of course it will be most of what exists) just say: this is what I read or heard.
Truly, the only thing that we can know for sure is that we really don’t know.
As Albert Einstein said:
‘There are two way to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.’
Or as Walt Whitman said
‘A child said: What is this grass? fetching it to me with full hands;
How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more than he.’