The Impossibility of Knowing

‘All Pervading’ (detail) – George Frederick Watts, 1887 – WikiArt


Beat on that thick cloud of unknowing
with a sharp dart of longing love,
and do not give up, whatever happens
~ The Cloud of Unknowing (Anonymous)


Habit is a driving force in our lives, yet it doesn’t have good reviews: it is an object of critics. It is making us dull and repetitive. It is non-creative, indolent, designed for our self-protective needs. It is born out of fear, uncertainty. It is a shield for what we feel bullies and thwarts us, and is thereby blocking our sensitivity and vulnerability. Habit debases love. But habit is not the real culprit in this affair: it is a victim of the one more fundamental habit of knowing.

Humanity is steeped in apparent knowing. We all have a posture of knowing. To know is the great pretension. Games are invented to praise and reward the people who know. The injunction to know is overwhelming. It is the believed road to success and wealth. Not knowing is a humiliation. We could take pride in knowing anything, in being ignorant, in the most ridiculous things, only to save us from being suspected of not knowing. For knowledge is believed to be gold. But although conceptual knowledge is indeed of great value in our society, the posture of knowing is nevertheless the greatest impediment to seeing who we truly are, and how to live our lives free and happy.

We don’t speak here of knowledge in the sense of conceptual or relative knowledge. Most of the knowledge necessary for our body and mind to function in the world is valid and necessary, of course open to mistakes and misinterpretations, but is not what we are discussing here. We are investigating fundamental knowledge, or knowledge as essence, the primal act of being.


An essay on the articulation between knowing and not knowing… (READ MORE…)