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Basic Knowing

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

Quotes about Basic Knowing

A Basic Direct Knowingness can Start Only from a Not-Knowing

There is a basic not-knowing that is present all the time, in a fundamental and simple way. You look around you and say, “I’m sitting here with these people, inside these walls,” and you think you know who the people are and what the walls are. This is ordinary knowledge. And this ordinary knowledge from the past is actually determining your perceptions right now. In reality, you don’t truly know in this moment what a wall is. You call it a wall because you know things about walls, and you put the wall in a certain category that fixes and rigidifies it. Of course, it appears to be a normal wall. But what you are knowing is basically your mind. More precisely, you are knowing this presentation, which we call a wall, through the filter of your mind. But do you really know the wall at this moment? Do you truly know what this thing is in itself, without your ideas about it? You don’t know what’s here directly and fundamentally. You will not know unless you divest yourself of all your ideas about walls and people completely and look totally openly to see what you find. Then what you can experience is a basic, direct knowingness. But that can start only from a not-knowing. And you cannot take even this fresh, basic knowing into the next moment. In the next moment, you might need to penetrate even deeper to experience directly what is in front of you. 

Implication of a Complete Identity of Knowing and Being

The aspect of Knowing arises when one knows that one’s very beingness is inseparable from knowing: that one is being knowing and hence this presence is completely one with itself. There is no division between subject and object, absolutely no duality in the knowing. So it is basic knowing. But since it is presence, it is not an activity of knowing. It is the presence of the quality of Knowing. Because the aspect of basic Knowing implies a complete identity of knowing and being, the experience of it is of deep abiding, total settling in oneself, complete repose in one’s presence. Any agitation, any movement away from oneself, will tend to disconnect us from it. It is complete inner rest, what is referred to in Sanskrit as sahaja-samadhi. There is no agitation in the field of consciousness. There is total repose in presence, by being the presence so completely that we only know that we know through experiencing ourselves as a field of Knowing. 

Our Basic Knowing Capacity Begins by Not Knowing

This possibility of not-knowing thoroughly permeates our experience all the time, in all possibilities and all situations. It is fundamental to our knowing capacity. In fact, our basic knowing capacity begins by not-knowing. How can you know if you don’t first not know? We tend to be scared of not-knowing; we are unable to see that it is the pervasive ground of our knowledge. Not-knowing, in some sense, is where we live all the time. Every piece of knowledge is situated in not-knowing. It is the space where all knowledge is. So we can say that basic knowingness is the field of not-knowing, which can manifest forms within itself that this knowingness recognizes. It is clear that not-knowing is basically of two kinds: Just as there is ordinary knowledge and basic knowledge, there is ordinary not-knowing and basic not-knowing, Ordinary not-knowing is the absence of certain information. Basic not-knowing is a quality of experience, an omnipresent quality necessary for our knowingness. It implies knowingness and it is the entry into knowingness. Basic not-knowing is actually the openness of Being that allows the dynamism of Being to disclose new possibilities of experience and perception. 

The Cognitive Faculty of the Human Soul is Called Knowing

The animal soul form of knowledge is called desire, desiring. All the animal soul knows is desire, the object of desire, and the desiring of that. The cognitive faculty of the human soul is called knowing. The human soul means the level of the soul when she experiences essence as her heart. And her mode of knowledge is the normal knowing. The cognitive faculty of the spiritual soul is called seeing. This is what we have been discussing as basic knowing. For God, appearing and seeing are the same. Appearing means manifestation of everything, which is God’s knowledge. Desiring is knowledge based on duality. Knowing has a hint of unity to it, like when you think in your inner experience, “I know I am feeling a certain feeling.” The feeling is part of you but you are somewhat separate from it; we call that dual unity. The soul is in dual unity with her experience. Seeing is nondual experience where the seer and the seen are completely the same thing. That is when the soul, the medium, is the same thing as the cognizer. Appearing is boundless and nondual.

The Level of Experience Referred to as Basic Knowing

It is important to recognize that what we mean by “nonconceptual” here is not what most people, including philosophers, mean by this term. Usually, nonconceptual describes something that is not mental, but is rather immediate experience, like a feeling or sensation. So the scent of a flower will be seen as nonconceptual, the texture of the orange is nonconceptual. I refer to this level of experience as basic knowing, not as nonconceptual perception. In the way I am discussing things here, these experiences and perceptions are still conceptual, because there is knowing in them, and knowing always involves concepts, even when the concepts are those of gnosis—that is, spiritual immediate knowing. What I am calling nonconceptual here is beyond immediate and nonrepresentational knowing. It is beyond basic knowing or gnosis. It is not a knowing at all, and there is no recognition of anything; it is total innocence of mind, perceiving but not recognizing what we are perceiving. So, we see that we have the possibility of being where we are—to be in such nakedness, such purity, that we just are and that is that. And we don’t even say “we” and “are”—everything just is as it is. The terminology used by those in the Eastern traditions is very good for indicating this, because it is just a pointing. You can ask, “What is it?” and they will say, “It is that.” Or “What is reality?” and the answer will be, “It is just thus.” No explanation is possible because there is nothing to explain, because there is nothing to discern—or, the discerning capacity does not function at that level. Awareness has gone deeper than discernment can go. It has reached the totally nonconceptual depth of True Nature, the noncognitive depth of reality. Thus we recognize that True Nature—the nature of everything—is fundamentally nonconceptual, beyond mind. And, the fact that awareness is beyond the mind means that we can be free of the mind. 

We have to Embrace Not-Knowing, Not as a Deficiency or Lack but as the Manifestation of Basic Knowingness

Not-knowing is the door to the true, direct, fresh knowing. In the preceding chapter, I related inquiry to knowledge, but in this chapter we are exploring it in relation to not-knowing. To inquire into basic knowledge, we must respect and appreciate not-knowing. We need to become comfortable with not-knowing, we have to embrace not-knowing—not as a deficiency or lack, but as the manifestation of basic knowingness. Not-knowing is itself knowing, for it is the way basic knowingness first appears when allowing the possibility for new and direct perception—basic knowledge. Otherwise what we experience will be the repetition of the same things we have known in the past and believe we know. In some sense, not-knowing is the transition from ordinary knowledge to basic knowledge. So inquiry begins with the recognition of not-knowing. The moment you recognize that there is something you don’t know, inquiry may proceed. If you take the position that you know, then no inquiry is possible, for we must first perceive and acknowledge that there is something we don’t know. Not-knowing, regardless of how uncomfortable it is, is the starting point of inquiry. And to recognize that you don’t know is a very deep thing, as we will see. 

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