Recently, I have been finding that I feel particularly dumb in life. Its like I don’t know anything. I look at all that I thought, and think, and it all looks ridiculous and naïve in a way . . . its just a bunch of words and ideas. Its like I only think I know but really don’t. More importantly, I know that there is great truth in this that, deep down, I really am dumb. This is probably why, in the past little while, I have begun to say:
“I am not knowledge.”
This got me to thinking about it:
I should point out that when I speak of “knowledge” here I am really speaking of it in a broader sense. I speak of these two things:
Actual knowledge – this refers to information, facts, etc. . . . the “substance of knowing”.
Knowing – this refers to an act or ability . . . the “attaining of knowledge”.
These are really distinct and separate things but they are also intimately bound together. Because of this, I react to them similarly and often view them as the same thing. In this article I will speak of them, together, as “knowledge”.
The statement “I am not knowledge” states that “knowledge” – “actual knowledge” and “knowing” – is something that is separate from me. In other words, “knowledge” does not make me who I am. In fact, I’d say that “knowledge” is something that comes to me from “somewhere else”. It is not a part of me and, in that sense, is “alien” to me, a stranger or foreignor. In this way, “knowledge” is really no different than putting on a jacket or a hat . . . you just “put it on”. One “puts it on” by “learning” it. Once one “learns” it one “wears” it. This more or less is saying that “learning” is the same as putting on clothing . . . its something separate from you that you “wear”. I sometimes jokingly speak of this as “wearing knowledge” or “knowledge-as-clothing”.
But, just like clothing, “wearing knowledge” tends to change the way a person looks, to themselves and others, and can alter the way they view themselves. This change has a number of effects, such as:
- Functional value – it makes a person “fit in”. For example, “learning” the ways of a culture makes one fit in to the culture or “learning” how to be a lawyer makes a person fit into and become part of the lawyer profession. In addition, being able to fit in to how the world works helps one to survive and live.
- Illusionary and deceptive – it makes a person appear to be something else than they are. This often becomes an illusion not only to other people but to the person themselves. It can even get to the point of being a deception.
- Revealing quality – it can help a person discover hidden or other aspects of themselves. Changing the way a person appears can often reveal or bring out hidden aspect of themselves they did not know they have. In this way, it can lead to a revealing of things. It does this primarily by creating a condition where what one thinks one is or knows is as if put “off guard” by the change in ones appearance. This assumed knowing is as if “challenged”, so to speak, causing a tension which often brings out other aspects of ones self.
One can see that there are good and bad effects with “wearing knowledge”.
The main problem with “wearing knowledge” is primarily that it does not necessarily reflect the person deep down. In this “era of education” this is becoming a big problem. People are “wearing knowledge”, to such an extent, that they no longer know themselves.
My observation is that “wearing knowledge” generally starts by having “functional value” which gives it a legitimacy and relevance. This often slowly turns into the “illusionary and deceptive” form over time. In effect, they eventually deceive themselves by “wearing knowledge”. This can become particularly dominant for some people.
The “revealing quality” appears from time to time in most people, but tends to only be strong in certain personality types. Typically, people who “wear knowledge” tend to not develop the “revealing quality”.
Overall, though, I’d say that the “functional value” is the strongest and most prevalent value of “wearing knowledge”. In other words, the main value of “wearing knowledge”, for most people, is in its quality of making a person “fit in”. Some of the reasons why this is so important include:
- It makes a person part of a group.
- It can help a person “get ahead” and can give them advantage.
- It causes a unity in a population of people.
- It helps a person to adapt to the conditions of life.
Many of these reflect social conditions and show that there is a close relationship between society and “wearing knowledge”. Because of this, “wearing knowledge” tends to be something that society promotes as a value. In addition, it promotes and strengthens society as it helps people to survive in that society. Because of this, “wearing knowledge” has a very strong social orientation and value.
But it must also be pointed out that, because of its more social orientation, “wearing knowledge” tends to not reflect personal inquiries or personal qualities. This, in my opinion, is one of the great illusions of knowledge and is one of many aspects of knowledge that is not understood. My experience is that people who seek knowledge begin with the “wearing knowledge” point of view and generally remain there. As a result, a person who is “knowledgeable” is generally nothing but a person that is “wearing knowledge” and remember that this is based, as I said above, on social values and themes. In this way, all they are seeking, really, is knowledge that is known and accepted by society. If they are looking at things from a social values and themes point of view (which is generally the case) then its generally OK. But when they are inquiring for “personal” reasons, such as a spirituality or deeper meaning in things, then there tends to be problems. This is because the social values and themes, found in the “wearing knowledge” point of view, seldom reflects “personal” aspects. As a result, there often develops a mismatch of motives which causes things like:
- They tend to get misled and misdirected.
- They get deceived.
- They overemphasize certain things and neglect other things.
- They become like blind sheep following the herd.
Its because of things like this that the emphasis on”wearing knowledge” point of view often tends to hamper peoples personal development. This is because it is primarily based in a social orientation. In actuality, this tends to lead them away from themselves.
KNOWLEDGE AND “I”
It seems, to me, that it is not “I” that is the origin of “knowledge”. It seems, to me, that “knowledge is something that comes to me from somewhere else. In this way, it shows that it is separate from me and removed from me. As a result, I treat it that way, as something removed from me. In this way, “knowledge” is not “mine”, so to speak, but a separate entity altogether. In other words, I see “knowledge” as removed from my self and a separate entity. This means that any “knowledge” does not contain my self, of who I am. More than once have I said that things such as:
- “I have no idea what I’m saying” (see my article “On how I really don’t know what I’m talking about – the seeking of inspiration, ‘active knowing’, and character“).
- “I do not know the source of the material of what I speak of.”
- “I don’t know where my thoughts are coming from.”
- “Thoughts appear out of nowhere.”
- “It seems like there’s something more to my thoughts, that it is beyond me”.
- “I am only a messenger.”
These all reveal a feeling that my thoughts don’t seem to be coming from “me”.
Being that “knowledge” is removed from me the “I” tends to feel stupid and dumb, oftentimes. Some of the ways the feeling and being dumb appears include:
- I forget things.
- I can’t get seem to retrieve certain trains of thought or facts.
- I contradict myself.
- Things become relevant/irrelevant very easily.
- I lose interest in subjects.
In other words, I become “flighty” and “absent-minded”. This is because the “I” is not “rooted” in “knowledge” and, as a result, “bounces around” going from here to there as easily as the wind changes direction. One could, perhaps, refer to this as the “non-knowledge-focused orientation”. In opposition to this one could speak of the “knowledge-focused orientation”. In this orientation, of course, “knowledge” becomes the basis and mainstay of the self and “I”. Because of this, the “I” becomes rooted in “knowledge” and becomes equated with the “I”. A person then “becomes knowledge”. The “knowledge-focused orientation” is very common in this society.
Looking at the qualities of this feeling of being dumb one can see a number of things such as:
- That “knowledge” is separate from me.
- That “knowledge” is limited and narrow, even when it comes from within me.
- That “knowledge” is variable and changes.
- That “knowledge” is not the great thing it seems to be.
- That “knowledge” comes and goes.
These qualities conflict with the “I”. In fact, my observation is that there is a great disconnect between “knowledge” and the “I”. As a result, “knowledge” often tends to fail in life. Most people, at least in one point of their life, will experience this sense of the failure of “knowledge”.
WHEN “KNOWLEDGE” FAILS
In life there is a point where “knowledge” begins to fail. There becomes something like a conflict between “knowledge” and the “I”. Its almost like there are phases in this conflict:
- Being “simple”. This is ones original state, of not “knowing”, much like an infant.
- The “knowing”. This is when one gains knowledge.
- “Becoming knowledge”. This is when one becomes “learned” and “understands”. In this state we tend to equate knowledge with ourselves and often “wear knowledge”. This can be a very satisfying feeling as one feels they are accomplishing something.
- The “knowing” begins to fail and “does not satisfy”. One finds that the “knowing” ceases to be the great thing it once was nor does it seem to answer anything. Often, this phase appears when one begins to develop a stronger sense of “I”. In this way, it is a sign of a growing disconnect between “knowledge” and the “I”.
- One begins to have a sense that there is something “more” than “knowing”. With the failure of “knowing” one begins to sense “something else”. In many cases, this is a growing sense of “I”.
- The separation of the “I” and “knowledge”. This is when one begins to see that ones self is beyond knowledge.
- The contemplative attitude. This refers to an “awareness without knowledge” basically. It primarily entails various forms of awareness that is rooted in the self and “I”. It can go to the great depths of ones self. Its often a sign of a great sense of self. Most people don’t go this far.
Interestingly, the state of contemplation tends often takes on traits similar to the first phase, of being “simple”, and then the process as if starts over again. Because of this, we could really refer to this as a cycle.
But, it seems to me, that many people, at least in this society, would have a hard time making it to phase 6, and possibly even phase 5. This is primarily because they just see “knowing as knowing” and not as a manifestation of the self. This has a lot to do with the fact that this is a knowledge worshiping society which tends to hinder the development of phase 6. One effect of this is that they reach phase 5 and feel a frustration in life. Many people will feel this frustration all their lives.
THE “KNOWLEDGE”/SELF RELATIONSHIP
The nature of “knowledge” is that it is often the “window of perceiving the world” that allows us to see, experience, conceive, and view the world. As a result, we tend to equate this “knowledge” of the world with our self. But our self is neither the world or our “knowledge” of the world. This fact becomes more apparent when “knowledge” fails.
A major reason why “knowledge” fails is because our self grows and develops, particularly as we age. As the self grows there is a tendency for a greater sense of a disconnect between the self and “knowledge“. Often, there reaches a point where a person will either seek the self or maintain “knowledge”. If the path of the self is chosen the self generally continues to grow. As a result, there develops a greater sense of disconnect to the point that “knowledge” fails and all that’s left is the self. One effect that this can cause is a sense of being “dumb”.
One thing this shows is that the self is, in actuality, “dumb” and is without knowledge or “knowing”. Accordingly, when the self becomes dominant one becomes, or feels, “dumb”. In a way, being “dumb” often shows that the self is dominant.
Because of the “dumb” nature of the self there becomes little use of “knowledge” when the self is concerned. As a result, there is a tendency where the self is known “without words” and in other ways other than “knowledge”. Some of these include:
All these deal with the general qualities of the self and do not, accordingly, involve knowledge or knowing. Many of these qualities, interestingly, are more prevalent in primitive, smaller, and older societies. This fact shows that primitive, smaller, and older societies tend to take a “non-knowledge-focused orientation”. Societies that are more developed, larger, and newer tend to take a “knowledge-focused orientation”.
One fact that this shows is that the more developed, larger, and newer societies (that is, more modern societies) tend to actually degrade the self, not develop it, as it usually claims. This fact may be one reason why modern societies tend to dehumanize and alienate people. The self simply does not figure prominently in more modern societies.
EFFECTS OF A KNOWLEDGE WORSHIPPING SOCIETY
In this society there is a tendency to worship knowledge. This point of view is seen in many more modern societies. But, the problem is that these societies preach that “knowing” is everything. This orientation, as I said above, tends to hinder the development of the self. The over emphasis on “knowledge” tends to make it difficult to allow it to fail and allow the self to grow. There then becomes a dilemma where one part of a person wants to follow the self but it doesn’t know how. This is because its in a society that only emphasizes “knowledge” and, as a result, the path of the self is not known. This causes a number of reactions such as:
- They try to find another way of “knowing”. This often appears like “experiments”, such as another belief system or religion. Usually, this works for a while but fails in the end.
- They learn more as a way of following the “knowledge” orientation.
- They resign themselves to the fact that they are dumb.
- They become indifferent.
- They develop contempt.
Typically, a knowledge worshipping society creates a “self-suppressed” condition that actually hinders the development of the self. A segment of the population will try to develop the self, using techniques as shown above, but they usually never quite develop the self. It seems that the people who develop the self are generally people who are “on the fringes of society” and, accordingly, are not under its control. This allows the self to develop more freely.
INTUITION AS A FORM OF “SELF-KNOWLEDGE”
The self, though, does have an innate form of knowing. I generally refer to this as intuition. It is a form of knowing that originates from “inside” or within us. In this way, it is not really a form of “knowledge”. It does not depend on a learning or a knowing that comes from without. The qualities that seem to promote intuition, it seems to me, are:
- An openness. This means an ability to be open to it, and to allow it to happen.
- A receptiveness. This means an ability to receive it into ones mind.
- A recognition. This means an ability to recognize its value.
Many people have intuition but never use it because of some failure, such as in one of the qualities describe above. These qualities all describe an aspect of the self. In short, the self must be “prepared” and “open” for intuition. Otherwise, intuition comes through one ear and out the other. This shows that intuition is a matter of the self.
Because intuition comes from the self, and originates from within, it tends to be wordless and dumb, just like the self. As a result, there is a tendency to not be able to understand it. In addition, we tend to not recognize intuition when it does appear. In this way, intuition is something that one must “discern” or, rather, see amidst the myriad reactions, feelings, and thoughts one has.
Intuition is really an active relationship of the self with the world. It is not a “knowledge” in the sense of “I know this or that”. In this way, we could describe intuition as an “active knowing”. Intuition then becomes a perpetual discovery and a revealing that never ends. It is also never complete but ongoing. Its in perpetual flux and change.
Interestingly, even though intuition comes from within it often has this appearance of coming from without us, as something separate from us. (this was seen, for example, with Socrates – see my article “Thoughts on how I perceive the world – inspiration and the “I don’t know” – with remarks about Socrates, philosophy, Odin, and belief“). No doubt, this is because of its deeper origins . . . the conscious self perceives it as something else.
THE EFFECT OF AGE – THE QUESTION OF WISDOM
As one grows older the sense of self usually develops as well. One effect of this, oftentimes, is a growing sense of becoming dumber as one gets older. One feels that “they never really knew”. Another aspect of this is that we really begin to see how dumb we were when we were younger and that we only “thought we knew”. In short, knowledge tends to fail when we grow older.
Because of this, one tends to take a more “intuitive” view of life as one gets older. This, it seems to me, is the source of a lot of the so-called wisdom of old age. Normally, we say it is based in “experience”. I feel that there is truth to this but I feel that there is other aspects not mentioned. The failure of knowledge, based on the growing self and its leading to a more intuitive sense in life, seems a major element in the development of wisdom. This would mean that wisdom is not based in wholly in knowledge or experience.
One of the reasons why wisdom can be so powerful is that it is based in an intuitive sense and tends to describe an attitude of an active participation in life. In other words, wisdom is often a sign of an active participation in the world. This is why wisdom often appears as “advice” or “suggestions” and does not appear as “facts”.
Overall, we find that the self and knowledge are not as compatible as it may seem. In actuality, knowledge or what I know, or think I know, is not who I am nor does it make me who I am. The self, by itself, is actually dumb and without knowledge. But the self contains a form of knowledge in intuition. One could say that intuition is the “knowledge of the self”. In this way, one could say that “real knowledge” is intuition, the knowledge that comes from the self, which is dumb and without knowledge.
Copyright by Mike Michelsen