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Knowing (Unknowing)

Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Knowing (Unknowing)?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Knowing (Unknowing)

A Knowing Unknowing

When we use the term “inquiry,” what do we mean? Inquiry means investigation, exploration, but mostly it means wanting to find out. It is a questioning. “What is this? Why is that? What is happening? Where is it going?” What is a question? If you really get into a question, what do you find at its heart? The heart of a question is obviously an unknowing. When you ask a question, you are acknowledging that there is something you do not know. However, a question is not just an unknowing, because unknowing by itself does not necessarily mean there is a question. It is possible to not know and not question. A question has an unknowing in it, but the unknowing is a knowing unknowing. You cannot ask a question unless you know that you do not know. But it is not only that you know that you do not know; you also know something about what you do not know. Otherwise you cannot ask a question about it. The moment you ask a question about anything, you acknowledge that you do not know and that you also have a sense of what you do not know. So the question is arising from a place where there is a knowing of an unknowing plus a knowing of a possible knowing, and this possible knowing is somehow penetrating your consciousness in a way that emerges as a question.

Both Knowing and Unknowing are Needed for there to be a Question

A question is a holy thing, a holy manifestation. A question is an amazing phenomenon—because its heart is the openness of true nature and its activity is a creative love to know the truth, but it also implies a knowingness. It is true that its core is an unknowingness, a mystery, but you cannot ask a question if there is no knowingness at all. You first have to know that you don’t know, and then, to ask any particular question, you have to know something. For instance, the question “What’s this sweetness in my heart about?” implies that you already know there is sweetness in your heart. So both knowing and unknowing are needed for there to be a question. Without any knowing, there won’t be any question, and without any unknowing there won’t be questioning.

Can You Remain Completely Ignorant, Unknowing; Can You Let Your Mind Go?

Can you exist as an inquiry, an inquiry into the truth? Are you here just to live, work, eat, love, hate, have children, and die? Can you let go of what you believe you have? Can your mind empty itself of all your possessions, beliefs, theories, knowledge, understanding, and simply remain as a search, a pure inquiry not influenced by anyone or anything, even your own past? Even if you felt love and freedom and relaxation and so on in the past, what makes you think these things are what you need at this moment? The insights you had in the past might have been right, but how do you know they are what you need now and in the future? In order to find out, all you can do is let them go. Can you remain completely ignorant, unknowing; can you let your mind go, not impose anything on your mind, and at the same time not go dead, not become unconscious? Can we rid ourselves of all influences, of the influences of others’ ideas and of our own past, and remain in the now, as an inquiry? You can observe that every time someone says something that sounds true, or every time you have an insight, you say, “Oh, wonderful, that must be it.” You want to put out the flame. You want the first answer that comes to silence the questioning. Why are we in such haste to have answers? We jump on the first promise of salvation that comes. Why not stay with the question? What makes you think that salvation is the answer, that freedom is the answer? What makes you think that enlightenment is the answer? What makes you think that love is the answer? You might feel that you want these things, but how do you know that getting them is the best thing that could happen in this moment? How do you know whether you’re supposed to be dead or alive, rich or poor, free or enslaved? Is it possible to let your mind be free?  

Dynamic Unknowingness is the Expression of Dynamic Knowingness

Not-knowing is a state of knowledge; it indicates an innate, basic knowingness. It happens within a field capable of knowing. As we have seen, recognizing that you don’t know is a function of knowing, is an expression of basic knowledge. A dynamic not-knowing implies an unknowingness that is moving toward knowing, an unknowingness that is interested to know. It is an unknowingness that wants to know, that loves to know. In a very direct way, dynamic unknowingness is the expression of dynamic knowingness. In other words, dynamic unknowing is the operation of a knowingness that knows that it does not know. And the fact that it is knowingness gives it the dynamism to actively move toward knowledge. Not only do you need to recognize that you don’t know, but the not-knowing must also have a dynamism that moves it toward knowing what you don’t know. Otherwise, your not-knowing will not be inquiry. 

Knowing the Experience of Unknowing

When you experience love, how do you know you’re experiencing love? You just know it. But how do you know it? Through intimacy with it, by feeling it in your heart as part of your heart. Everything we know, we know experientially. There is no experience that doesn’t include knowingness. As we have seen, when there’s no knowingness in experience, there’s no experience. It’s as simple as that. Even when you experience not-knowing, it’s knowingness. You’re knowing that you don’t know. You’re knowing the experience of unknowing. So whenever there is experience—whether it’s mental, emotional, physical, or spiritual experience—knowing is its ground. Both ordinary and basic knowing are necessary for understanding. But the direct, intimate knowing of basic knowledge is necessary for you to develop and unfold. We need to become aware of this kind of knowingness to develop the capacity for understanding.

Simplicity of the Source which is So Single that Its Kowing is an Unknowing

Clearly, the nature of this process and its accompanying experience can lead us to the conclusion that the absolutely transcendent truth is unknowable. When absolute transcendence is taken to mean true nature totally apart from any manifest form, this is true. However, we see this as one possible understanding of this process. While it is true that our experience is such that we feel we know less and less as we are enveloped in the divine darkness, we are actually becoming increasingly intimate with the divine light, the absolute transcendent truth. We perceive and discriminate less, but this decrease of discrimination is not an increasing ignorance. It is the increase of a different kind of knowledge, a knowledge that is in its nature beyond discrimination, beyond the recognition of qualities and attributes. It is the simplicity of the source, which is so single that its knowing is an unknowing. As we become more enveloped in the divine darkness we are actually enveloped in divine light, for the divine light is dark. It is black light, the source of all light, not colorless but pre-color. We might think that clear light is the ultimate light, as is asserted by some Buddhist schools. However, clarity is an attribute, albeit a fundamental one. It is the absence of color, but not the ontological antecedent of color. Black light is the luminous divine darkness, the source of all light, and the origin of awareness. 

The Flame of the Search is Ignited When We Accept Our Unknowing

The flame of the search is ignited only when we accept our unknowing, and still aspire to discover the truth of our situation. It will be dimmed, even extinguished, if we anaesthetize ourselves with the belief that we know the truth, or if we accept someone else’s explanation or teaching without discovering the truth in the intimacy of our personal experience. When we sincerely acknowledge our ignorance, because we genuinely love the truth, the flame can become a passionate and consuming fire. As a soul matures, this inner flame can be sparked through normal life experience. Another way this process can come about is through exposure to spiritual work. The student’s intentional work on understanding himself will gradually expose the superficial defensive structures of the ego, while the discovery of Essence in its various aspects—the true nature of the soul—will exert a pressure on the ego identity. The initial discovery of Essence begins a journey of discovery, a period of wonderful experiences of Essence. It feels like a honeymoon. Little by little, however, it dawns on the student, to his dismay, that there is a big problem. He becomes aware that although he experiences his essence, in some deep and disturbing sense it is still not him. He does not recognize directly and nonconflictually that it is truly him. His experiences of Essence seem to be only experiences that sometimes happen to him, the same “him” he always was.

The Pattern of Our Unknowing is the Guidance of Our Inquiry

So not-knowing is an important manifestation of the openness of our Being. In recognizing that we do not know, we realize that not only do we know it is time to inquire, but we also know where to direct our inquiry so that knowledge can emerge. In fact, inquiry is guided by the thread of not-knowing. The pattern of unknowing is, in some sense, the guidance of our inquiry. When you recognize that there is something you don’t understand while investigating your experience, what you are actually following is the thread of not-knowing. That is what guides you. What is it that makes you ask a question when you recognize that there’s something you don’t know? The moment you feel, “Oh, this I know,” inquiry in that direction stops. It’s a dead end. However, when you feel, “Oh, I don’t know this,” inquiry moves in that direction. So we can say that not-knowing is a knowingness necessary for inquiry.

Unknowing that is the Ground for All Knowing

Thus the indeterminacy of the absolute is the same as the divine darkness, the inscrutable nature of the divine, the ultimate essence of Being. It is not an ordinary darkness and lack of knowing and being; it is the majestic and luminous blackness of the divine essence, the absolute essence of Being, the most intimate truth of true nature. It is the core of all existence, the depth of Being, the inner of all. Whenever we find an inner quality and dimension, the luminous night will be its innerness; whenever we find a deep truth the luminous night will be its ultimate depth. It is the inner of all, the essence of everything, the back of all fronts, and the ultimate ground and facticity of all manifest forms. It is indeterminacy, but it is also the ground of all determinations; it is nonbeing but it is also the ground of all being; it is darkness but it is also the ground of all light; it is unknowing but it is also the ground for all knowing. It is the primal darkness before there was light, and the eternal night that highlights the appearance of the day. 

Unknowingness that is Moving Toward Knowing

An important thing to see concerning this dynamic unknowing is that it is the essence of a question. The core of any question is a dynamic unknowing, an unknowingness that is moving toward knowing. This is, in reality, the most important element of any question; it is the power and force of any question. Whenever you ask a question, a dynamic unknowingness is involved. The core and heart of your question is an unknowingness that loves to find out. So a question expresses not only an unknowing but an unknowing that wants to know. We can say, then, that inquiry is a questioning whose dynamic essence is a knowingness that knows it does not know but is interested to know. And since it knows what it does not know, this knowingness knows where to direct its openness. It can direct its openness by knowing where the gap in knowledge exists. In other words, a question is really an elegant and beautiful embodiment of the dynamic unknowing of Being as it optimizes itself. It expresses basic knowingness by embodying at its heart this dynamic unknowing.

We Need to Approach this Work with An Unknowing Mind, a Mind that is Open to What is New

It’s an interesting dilemma that we find ourselves in. The general tendency of the personality is to try to change things according to our own preconceptions. How else can we do it? We can only act according to what we already know. And we don’t know freedom and fulfillment. Where does that leave us? If you really listen and absorb what I have said, you’ll notice some fear, or anxiety. If you begin to understand what I am saying, you will realize that you have to let go of your preconceptions and start fresh. We need to approach this work with an unknowing mind, a mind that is open to what is new, rather than a mind that is like a wheel running according to what is old.

When You are a Baby You are Completely Unknowing

This is why I say we need to become like babies, in several ways. One way is that they have no idea what the hell it is all about. When you are a baby, you are completely unknowing. It is not that you stop thinking, or that you have forgotten; you haven’t begun to know yet. You are completely untouched. You have to become virginal again before you see things as they are. Not only do you not think, you do not know: you do not know anything. If you know anything, what you know is old. So you have to be like a baby in the sense that you do not know. You do not know what you are, you do not know what is there, you do not know who’s there, or if there is such a thing as who or what. The rules of grammar do not make sense. There is no such thing as subject or object or verb—none of these make sense yet. There is no “you” and “me” and “he” and “she” or “yesterday” or “tomorrow.” There is nothing good and nothing bad and nothing in between. There is nothing that you want —without feeling that there is nothing that you want. The moment you feel you want something you already know, it is the past, the corpse again. So when you experience desire, your desire is for nothing but the past. The moment you want something, what you want is something in your mind. The moment you have a dissatisfaction, it is a product of your mind. The moment you have a hope, you’re hoping for something that you already know in your mind. You’re hoping to get some kind of a corpse and live with it.

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