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Knowledge (True Knowledge)

Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Knowledge (True Knowledge)?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Knowledge (True Knowledge)

Complete Ignorance is what Will Bring True Knowledge

Knowing the answer to “Who am I?” happens only in the moment. The answer has nothing to do with the past. If the past determines the answer now, then it is obviously not a correct answer, since the past no longer exists. To really answer the question requires that we see that we don’t know, and also that we don’t know how to find out. Is it possible to let yourself see that you don’t know the answer and don’t know how to find it, and still let the question burn in you? “Who am I?”

“Who am I?”

Can we allow ourselves to see that we don’t know? If we assume we know, then we stop the inquiry. If we assume we know how to go about it, we assume we know what the answer is, that we know what we are looking for. Perhaps not knowing is the real knowing. If you allow yourself to see that you don’t really know and you don’t know how to know, something can happen. Maybe this is your first chance of really knowing something. Assuming that you know and assuming that you know what to do are barriers to true knowing. When you finally know that you don’t know, you finally have absolute knowledge. Complete ignorance is what will bring true knowledge. You see, the mind can’t function here. This has nothing to do with your mind. Your mind can only answer the question and say that some of the answers are not the answers. The only thing we can do is to eliminate what we believe we know and see that we really don’t know. That’s all we can do. We cannot do anything positive to begin finding out because the moment we do that we’re assuming that we know where we’re going. How do you know what should happen? That knowledge is inferred from memory, from past experience.  

Even True Knowledge Based on Our Experience is Composed of Concepts

So our work has to do with inquiry into the very consciousness and perceptivity of our experience. We need to rely more and more on our own immediate, direct knowledge. However, even true knowledge based on our own experience is composed of concepts, labels, ideas, images, and so on. So it exists only as a memory. For instance, you work on yourself and you have the experience of being an ocean of consciousness. This is a true, direct knowledge of your consciousness. But the next moment, it is just memory, an image, concept, idea, impression from the past. It is true knowledge in that you got it directly, but it immediately becomes ordinary knowledge, old knowledge. If you keep thinking that who you are is an ocean of consciousness, this will disconnect you from your immediate experience, even though the statement is both true and experientially derived. These concepts, labels, and ideas that come from our direct and true knowledge have to be taken as symbols or pointers to the realities that they refer to. They are not the truth. If you talk about your experience of being an ocean of consciousness, the recounting of that experience is not the truth. It is truth only if it is the immediate experience of essential reality now. 

Indirect Knowledge is Not True Knowledge Even if it is Correct

Many problems arise when you take knowledge to be truth. The first is that beliefs and information can be incorrect. This is not unusual, as the history of science illustrates. Science is a set of approximations that are always being corrected. We usually characterize our knowledge in physics or mathematics, for example, as absolute knowledge or absolute truth, when it really is just an approximation. At one point in history, people believed the Earth was carried on the back of a turtle; this was a widespread theory. When somebody asked the theologians—who were the scientists at that time—“What is the turtle on?” the answer was, “On the back of another turtle.” Later on, people believed the Earth is flat. It was “scientifically proven”: Scientists looked as far as they could and concluded it is flat. At that time, that was science, and it worked fine for a while; it was useful knowledge. The second problem is that indirect knowledge—knowledge you get from other people—is not true knowledge even if it is correct. It is not yet what we call personal truth, not experiential or perceptual truth. People tell you things, you learn things in school, you hear or read things. All this is not true knowledge, it is only second-hand belief and conviction, beliefs taken on faith. There is no certainty here, and yet your belief may prevent you from perceiving reality in any other way. For instance, each one of us believes that our body is composed of atoms. Do we really know that? We have heard it, read it in chemistry books, but it is not direct knowledge. We don’t really know. It is knowledge based on faith. It has been useful in the development of our technology to think that our body is composed of atoms, but if scientists took this as absolute truth, our science would not advance. 

Realizing How Much You Do Not Know

The fact is that true knowledge just opens up more questions. It just shows you more and more that you do not know. When you have the next insight, you have just found out something, but at that same instant you realize how much more you do not know. And it should continue that way – seeing how much more you do not know, until finally, you realize you do not know anything. When you finally see that that you know absolutely nothing then maybe it is possible to be innocent. 

Realizing that We Do Not Truly Know What We Believe We Know

We not only believe that we know ourselves and the world around us; we also end up adhering to these beliefs and creating in our external reality what we believe we know. This is because what we believe we know actually patterns the manifestations of our Being, our direct experience of ourselves and the world. We end up seeing what we expect to see. If I believe I am a deficient person, I keep seeing myself as deficient over and over again, and somehow life and the universe always seems to manifest me as a deficient person. In reality, there is no such thing in the universe as a deficient person. That concept is nothing but a certain boundary set on the manifestation of Being by a particular piece of information that I accept as true knowledge. I take this constraint on my experience to be what I know about myself—I say it is reality—because years ago I experienced myself this way and this impression became stuck in me as a certain boundary, an outline for the manifestation of my being. Most of us do this constantly. You conceptualize a past experience as a piece of knowingness that becomes some impression in your mind, integrated later on with other impressions, thus creating an image that determines your present experience. Your old knowingness and your present experience become inextricably linked. You become trapped in a vicious cycle of inertia, repetition, and stagnation. This cycle must be interrupted if we are going to regain the freshness of nowness and the wonder of the mystery. We can do this by realizing that we do not truly know what we believe we know and by not adhering rigidly to the positions dictated by our ordinary knowledge.

Source of True Knowledge

Many of the Sufis had also equated true knowledge with essence: “Gazali shows that the element which the Sufis call ‘knowledge’ is employed as a technical term, and that its functions for the human being go far beyond what one would ordinarily regard as knowledge. . . . Sufi knowledge, therefore, is something which continually pours into man.”

The fact of essence as substance, of the knowledge as substance, is the basis of the Sarmoun brotherhood, which some people regard as the heart and inner source of the Sufi orders. “There are many legends about the Sarmoun Darqauh (‘Court of the Bees’) and one of them is this. True Knowledge, it is asserted, exists as a positive commodity, like the honey of a bee. Like honey, it can be accumulated.” The knowledge that is collected like honey is the substance of essence itself. It is the source of true knowledge, and it is the knowledge itself. Or we can say it is the body of knowledge.

True Knowledge Frees Us from the Need for Comfort

True knowledge does not give us comfort. In fact, it frees us from the need for comfort. It does not make us more secure and cozy; it makes us more and more insecure. True knowledge causes us to lose our ground more and more because the ground we are standing on is fake. This Work is not an easy thing from the perspective of the dead world. It is very difficult and frightening. It is terrifying. It looks impossible because we look at it from the perspective of the mind; from that perspective it is not possible. But it is possible because the true reality is there. That’s what makes it possible. It is not because our mind thinks it is possible or not. Its possibility is its reality. It is what is; that’s why it is possible to perceive it. From the perspective of the mind, how can we allow ourselves not to know? It seems impossible, terrifying. How can we be willing to not know, to leave ourselves alone, to not even assume that we exist or do not exist? How can we not assume that we are human beings or not human beings? How can we not assume that this is my body or not my body? How is it possible to not assume that there are people? To not assume there is good or bad? It is terrifying. All these assumptions that we make indicate that we believe that we know. These assumptions are the darkness; they are the veils. This is the staleness, the darkness that obscures the freshness. Reality is so fresh it cannot be approached through the mind. The mind will have to dissolve, thin away, because reality is like a sun of ice, a radiant sun of ice. It radiates coolness, freshness, crystalline clarity. There is no place for coziness, familiarity, comfort of the usual kind. No hiding, covering this corner or that corner, with dust here, a little old thing saved over there—none of that. Our Work reveals the perception and understanding that we are freshness, we are innocence. We are an unknowableness. 

True Knowledge is Not an Accumulation

I’m saying all this to give a little hint of the kind of depth our inquiry can reach, to give a taste of what it is we are really doing. This gives us a sense of where we are going so that we do not delude ourselves with believing that we know where we are going, and we do not delude ourselves in pursuing things that we already know, that we already have planned and mapped. This is the true function of knowledge. True knowledge is not an accumulation. When true knowledge arises, it might answer your questions, but at the same time it will open up a thousand others. Understanding is a continual process of opening up more and more questions. When you have absolute knowledge, it is one huge, infinite question. You do not know something; you are just staring at reality. Knowledge is not to close something, to end something, or to come to conclusions. The true function of the mind is not to come to conclusions, and true knowledge is not comprised of conclusions. True knowledge is the opening of questions. In the dead world, we want knowledge that will silence our questions. We want our questions to be answered for good; we want to have no more questions. The fact is that true knowledge just opens up more questions. It just shows you more and more that you do not know. When you have the next insight, you have just found out something, but at that same instant you realize how much more you do not know. And it should continue that way—seeing how much more you do not know, until finally, you realize you do not know anything. When you finally see that you know absolutely nothing, then maybe it is possible to be innocent. 

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