by Robert Wilkinson
I've been thinking about the difference between real knowing and what I'll call "assumed" knowing. The former is found many ways, but not superficially. The latter originates in ego-mind, and is everywhere. Our task is to learn the difference between the two, both in us and others, so that we do not treat cheaply what we should hold as precious.
Real knowing comes from direct experience, as limited or broad as that can be. Depending on how our mind interprets the experience, our knowledge is clear and useful, or muddled and counterproductive. We can have an experience and search for meaning and purpose, or refuse to examine its deeper meaning in our life and move to the next distraction.
When our interpretation of an experience comes to a great Truth, we know that at the core of our Being. We can also know at the core of our Being through referencing our Heart. The trick is to discern those times when what we know is true, as well as be aware that what we do not know is also true. What we do not know can hurt us or help us.
This is why the search for deeper meaning in an experience helps us become aware of things we may not have known before. This search for meaning leads us to all kinds of ideas, some of which are true and some of which aren't. So how can we further our real knowledge while avoiding traps of erroneous thinking?
Remember the mind flits between fact and opinion, experiential knowledge and inferences associated with past perceptions. Regardless of whether the original perceptions and responses were enlightened or erroneous, we and others have created opinions and inferences from our experiences. These opinions definitely influence the knowledge others believe is true, as well as influence what we think we know and impart to others.
Real knowledge of something gained through direct experience is not the same as claiming knowledge of what certain experiences are like without having actually gone through them, or going through them with no comprehension of what they were about. Just because someone has supposedly gone through a similar experience does not mean they understood it. And if someone has not gone through an experience, then whatever they may say is not anchored in actually doing that experience.
One quality of ego-mind is that it assumes it "knows" something because it has read about it, heard about it, and spoken about it. The mind likes to assume that merely speaking of a thing constitutes direct experience. It works on the principle that the more we discuss, think, and read, the greater our knowledge of a thing.
While we can learn some things this way, speaking and reading about a thing is not the same as directly experiencing something where our ideas are put to a practical test. An even better way to know about something is to have many direct experiences in multiple situations, since these provide us context, contrast, and awareness of broader possibilities than anything we've heard or discussed.
In our discussions with others, one crucial element in finding real knowledge rather than assumed knowledge is through considering the source of where we learned what we supposedly "know." Why do we believe what we're reading or hearing? Is it based in theory and assumptions, or direct experience and practice?
Throughout our lives we will encounter many people who, because of pride, competitiveness, insecurity, fear, and other personality dysfunctions, claim knowledge of experiences they've never had. This tests our discrimination to stand on our knowledge while seeing how to assimilate any germ of truth we may find in what they're saying.
When confronting another's knowledge that isn't grounded in any practical experience, then it's useful to reference the spiritual or enduring truths we've found in our experiences while testing those truths against the premise put in front of us. We do not have to believe everything we're told, and should not feel badly if we must resist what's being put in front of us.
Of course, we can let many things go by without being duped into believing false "knowledge." It helps to regard all our human learning experiences as "experiments in truth."
Ultimately, all of our realizations will be put to the test of practical application so we can become well rounded in our knowledge as we open to ever greater understanding. Then we can rest on what we know to be true while reaching out to greater possibilities of applying our knowledge to find intelligent action that leads us to wisdom.
© Copyright 2011 Robert Wilkinson