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Knowledge (Ordinary Knowledge)

Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Knowledge (Ordinary Knowledge)?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Knowledge (Ordinary Knowledge)

Ending Up with a Painful, Constricted and Dark Repetition of Old Knowledge

Our past experience as a whole, which includes both pleasurable and painful impressions, becomes the content of ordinary knowledge that ends up patterning our experience. It is true that Being always unfolds—dynamism cannot be stopped or completely thwarted. However, it unfolds either freely or in a distorted way. When rigidity patterns our experience in a fixed way, this distorts the manifestation of the dynamism, and the creativity of our Being comes out in a darkened, dull, and disordered way. Understanding these distortions reveals the qualities of Being that are being blocked by the distortions, and thus helps us to see how the creativity of Being itself is distorted and constrained. Whatever arises is the manifestation of Being and always has a meaning, whether it is distorted and constrained or free and open. The distortions, including emotional pain and difficulties, are nothing but the presentations of the dynamism of Being happening through the filter of our ordinary knowledge. Fixed beliefs, attitudes, and positions, mostly based on ego structures and defenses, impede and distort the flow. What you end up with is a painful, constricted, and dark repetition of old knowledge. 

Inquiry Uses Ordinary Knowledge

One element that characterizes the Diamond Approach is the way we use ordinary knowledge. Many spiritual approaches say to drop your mind, throw away your knowledge, just be in a mindless space. You can do this, but that is not inquiry; it is something else. In the Diamond Approach, we use our ordinary knowledge in a specific way, an intelligent way. We use ordinary knowledge—all our concepts, ideas, realizations, and memories—as pointers to something in reality without taking the position that that knowledge is final and unquestionable. If we don’t do that, it will be the end of our inquiry. After a while, we won’t find anything vital inside the wrappings; nothing alive will remain within the concepts. Then we only live within wrappings, within shells of reality. We have all these packages all around us and we call it experience, and our living knowledge self-destructs. So inquiry and asking questions use ordinary knowledge, but with an appreciation of the nature of this kind of knowledge. We need to use all this knowledge—all this experience we had before—with intelligence, in a way that allows this knowledge to help us open the door instead of closing it. Then our ordinary knowledge can inform our inquiry, can guide our questions, by our intelligence using all of our experience in the present moment to open up this door further. 

Ordinary Knowledge Always Originates from and Operates Within Basic Knowledge

We are discussing basic knowledge to begin appreciating that knowledge is not just information someplace in our brain, it is not just computer memory. A computer cannot have basic knowledge; it can only store ordinary knowledge. A human being is capable of basic knowledge, which is the source of all ordinary knowledge. Without it, there is no knowledge of any kind, even ordinary knowledge. Where does ordinary knowledge come from? It comes from direct experiences that have already happened—either direct experiences in your consciousness or direct experiences of something you have heard or seen or read. What is reading but the knowledge of the experience of reading? Reading the book itself is knowledge. I don’t mean the knowledge of the content of the book; the very process of reading the book is knowledge. The whole experience is knowledge. This basic knowledge is the source of ordinary knowledge that you store in your mind. Even ordinary knowledge is basic knowledge because it cannot arise in our immediate experience except as basic knowledge—where each thought and memory in the moment of being experienced is basic knowledge. Ordinary knowledge is in some sense a subset of basic knowledge. However, because we can think of ordinary knowledge as knowledge that is stored someplace and becomes accessible at certain times, we can conceptualize it as not an experience, and hence as separate from basic knowledge. But in reality, whenever there is ordinary knowledge in operation, it is arising as experience in the moment and thus is basic knowledge. If you think of your experience yesterday, that act of thinking is basic knowledge. So ordinary knowledge always originates from and operates within basic knowledge. 

Ordinary Knowledge Cannot Carry the Sense of Presence

Ordinary knowledge also influences basic knowledge in ways not as wholesome as these. By interposing itself between the soul and her basic knowing, it increasingly dissociates the soul from the immediacy of her presence. Ordinary knowledge can dominate consciousness so much that the soul forgets the importance of basic knowledge, and hence the central significance of the sense of presence. We need to remember that it is characteristic of ordinary knowledge that it cannot carry the sense of presence. This sense is a concept, but it is the simplest concept, the first concept, which forms the basis of all knowing, and memory cannot hold such simplicity. This concept has no differentiated outlines for memory and ordinary knowledge to carry. 

Ordinary Knowledge Creates a Film through which You are Always Peering into what You are Experiencing Right Now

A more encompassing and open inquiry will disclose to us a discriminating knowingness not bound by ordinary knowledge and its positions, but simply aware whenever positions are in operation. The more open your inquiry becomes, the more you are able to see how ordinary knowledge creates a film through which you are always peering into what you are experiencing right now. Through inquiry, you open up this recognition, this basic knowledge; it begins to become available. By dissolving or parting the veil of ordinary knowledge, you start looking directly, immediately, and intimately, and the experience is now more purely basic knowledge. Observer and observed dissolve. This movement, which is a transformation of awareness, happens through understanding. However, this understanding/transformation is not just a movement from ordinary knowledge to basic knowledge. The change can be the unfoldment in the purity of basic knowledge itself. This is especially true in the third journey, where there is no filter of ordinary knowledge. Experience is direct, immediate, and pure presence that manifests with differentiated qualities. The presence appears as differentiated qualities and forms that are recognized and discriminated as they arise. As the quality or form arises, the consciousness knows it. 

Seeing That There is Nothing but Knowledge

When our experience is freer from ordinary knowledge—from the patterning influence of all the positions, beliefs, and ideas implicit in it—then we can discern basic knowledge more purely. We become aware of what our experience actually is because we know it directly, without the filter of ordinary knowledge. In fact, we can now see that there is nothing but knowledge. We can say there is nothing but experience, but that implies that meaning or interpretation must be added in order to have knowledge or to understand experience more deeply. To say that there is nothing but knowledge means that nothing needs to be added to experience to get knowledge, that each part of our experience is the arising of knowing and is an opening into deeper knowledge. With experience we ask, “What is next?” but with knowledge we ask, “What is this?” and all kinds of possibilities open up. When the nature of experience is nothing but knowledge, we recognize that knowingness is an inherent dimension of being an experiencing consciousness or soul. You can’t be a human being without every moment being an experience of knowing. 

The is no Absolutely Clear Line Between Basic and Ordinary Knowledge

Nonconceptual awareness is the ground in which forms arise, and the capacity for knowing makes it possible for us to discern the forms. The question of how much ordinary knowledge determines the moment-to moment knowledge of the soul’s experience of itself is not simple. As we have noted, we cannot always easily separate remembered knowledge as it arises in associations, projections, memories, and information, from the direct knowledge of content. There is no absolutely clear line between basic and ordinary knowledge. Many thinkers who appreciate the extent to which our experience is constructed by our accumulated knowledge believe that all experience is construction. Those who strongly hold this extreme view assume that the direct knowledge we are discussing is completely formed by ordinary knowledge, mostly at subliminal and unconscious levels. We do not hold this view; we observe that although our ordinary experience is largely constructed through ordinary mind—which accounts for the preponderance of techniques in wisdom teachings which challenge these constructions—it is not completely so. (See The Point of Existence, chapters 5 and 6.) 

The Ordinary Knowledge of the World Veils the Luminosity of Appearances

It is clear to my understanding that the ordinary knowledge of the world, the knowledge put together by memory and thought, veils the luminosity of appearances, and makes the various forms appear opaque. This opaqueness obstructs the perception of the underlying reality of the forms, by eliminating their inherent transparency. Thus the world is solidified into something inert and dismembered. And when the opaqueness is dispersed, through understanding its sources, perception beholds shapes and colors that reveal a reality so pure, so fresh, so new and undefiled that consciousness is totally transported, as if seared from within by a cool Arctic wind. I see through everything, through the surfaces of the various forms, and behold what underlies everything, what fundamentally constitutes all. I penetrate to the center of the universe, to the real nature of existence. What I behold baffles the mind, shatters it and enchants it beyond all knowing: The universe is one infinite perfect crystal, totally transparent, and absolutely clear. A density and immensity beyond comprehension, a solidity infinitely more fundamental than physical matter. The reality of the world is a solid transparency, a compact emptiness so clear it feels like the total absence of any sensation. This sheer clarity, this solid void, is so empty of mind and concept that it feels exhiliratingly fresh, so uncorrupted that it strikes me as the very essence of innocence. It is the virgin reality, before mind arises, before thought knows, before memory is born. 

Whenever Knowledge Becomes a Memory it is Ordinary Knowledge

To answer this, we need to appreciate that knowledge comes in various forms, the most common of which is ordinary knowledge. Ordinary knowledge is what is generally meant by the word “knowledge”—all the knowledge you have in your mind. Whenever knowledge becomes a memory, it is ordinary knowledge. It is the totality of your accumulated information: things you learned in school and things you were told or have read about, as well as things you have learned from your own direct experience. For instance, you have learned from experience that you have a body. That is ordinary knowledge. You were told you are that body, and that too becomes remembered knowledge. Now, if you take the concept that you are the body and adhere to this ordinary knowledge as truth, it will limit your openness to the creative dynamism. You will not be open to that dynamism to reveal that you are not a body but something else—consciousness, for instance. This example makes it easy to appreciate that our optimizing dynamism becomes bogged down due to our identification with images, structures, points of view, positions, concepts, beliefs, preferences, prejudices, and so on—all forms of ordinary knowledge. This thwarts and distorts the creative unfoldment of our Being. 

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