Thoughts on the spectrum of understanding

There are many ways to understand the world.  Naturally, being human, we all use words, think, have ideas, develop concepts, and such.  This, though, is only one form of understanding. 

By understanding I mean a ‘putting together of the world’ so that one may live in it.  Any being must be able to ‘put together’ an image in its mind of what is going on around it and the situation it is in.  In a sense, its a ‘seeing’ of the world.  If one cannot ‘see’ the world a person cannot live in it.  Understanding allows us to see and live in the world.  In many ways, understanding is the development of a ‘world image’ that defines how the world works and how one fits in it. 

I see a number of elements to understanding:

  • The ‘seeing’.  Everything begins with the seeing of whats going on around it.
  • The ‘accumulating’.  This refers to the ability to remember experiences over a period of time.
  • The ‘putting together’.  This refers to the ability to put the experiences together in a way that ‘makes sense’ and is useful.  Sure, a person can remember but making it all fit together is another thing.
  • The ‘applying’.  What use is there in gaining when it is not used?  A big part of understanding is the applying of it.

The different types of understandings do these things but it does them differently.  These different forms of understanding create like a spectrum which goes something like this:

Wordless understanding—“Pre-thought”—Thought understanding


Wordless understanding, of course, has no words.  As a result, there are no ideas, concepts, or anything like that.  This type of understanding seems primarily based in an ‘awareness’.  Through awareness everything is conceived in a wordless state.  In other words, awareness take the place of ideas and concepts in wordless understanding.  What this shows is that great awareness is required in wordless understanding

Wordless understanding is also very rooted in experiencing.  It is a knowledge based in experiencing where the experiencing is the understanding.  By experiencing we ‘know’ what will happen when we do this or that.  Most certainly, there is something like an ‘experiential intuition’ where we can sense what may happen if we do this or that. 

Wordless understanding tends to be based in the ‘here and now’.  Concepts of future and past are abstract concepts found in thought.  Since there is no thought here there is no real ‘conception’ of past and future.  Life is based in whats happening now. 

Accordingly, wordless understanding tends to be a ‘restricted awareness’ in that it is based in what is immediately perceptible.  There tends to be little consideration for what is happening ‘beyond the hills’ or in another valley, what will happen tomorrow, or considerations of things unperceptible. 


‘Pre-thought’ refers to a projection of self, in its various forms.  It is still wordless, but the self is projected onto the world.  Since the self is projected onto the world, we see it as if it were our self.  As a result, we ‘see’ intentions in nauture that seem human-like in motive and appearance.  Not only that, we think events are geared ‘for us.  This makes the world seem so very ‘like us’.

Often, the world is more than ‘there’.  It is perceived as a being.  Here, really, is the sense of god.  One could say that god is the projection of oneself upon the world. 

Projection of self often entails a symbology to perform.  As a result, in the ‘pre-thought’ stage we develop the use and need for symbols and representations of conceptions originating from wordless understanding. 


Thought understanding is really the application of the symbology of the ‘pre-thought’ stage.  One of the defining qualities of thought understanding is a directed application.  Thought understanding allows the conceptions of the previous understandings to be applied to the world.  This is typically done through thoughts and ideas of some form.

Thought understanding tends to be very abstract.  Things can be considered and dwelt upon that are not immediately ‘there’.  We can  consider and plan for the future.  We can consider what has happened in the past.  We can think of something that doesn’t exist.  We can consider what is happening 100 miles away.  We can think about things that are not immediately perceptible (like concepts, laws, bacteria, molecules, etc.).

In many ways, its this abstraction that allows thought understanding to overcome the failings of the previous forms of understandings.  In some respects it extends and expands our awareness and understanding.

But, as human beings living in the modern world, we tend to become too much engrossed in thought understanding.  We place too much value in it.  In a sense, we’ve become enslaved by it.  We think that’s all there is.  A human being is made of all forms of understanding, not just one.  As a result, to emphasize only one is to neglect other aspects of oneself.  This seems to be common nowadays.

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