Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom
Quotes about Unknowable
Because the Unknowable Doesn’t Change, and You Know that It is You, You Know that You Cannot Die
So, understanding is linked with human life. Life is itself a process of unfoldment; it is the living of the unfoldment. Life is not the final repose in the unknowable identity. That’s not life, that’s beyond life. You could be dead, and there would be no difference. Because the unknowable doesn’t change, and you know that it is you, you know you cannot die. When you know absolutely that it is you that does not change, does not die, then there is freedom. There is release from fear. You experience the multiplicity of creation in life—all the beauty of it. Then the life, which is the personal life, becomes fulfilled. And understanding is the same thing as living that life.
Diamond Heart Book Three, pg. 159
Experiencing the Absolute as Both Knowable and Unknowable
I experience the absolute as both knowable and unknowable. I can plumb its depths, and gain a great deal of experience and insight. I can describe what I experience in increasing detail, with more and more precision. But it is clear that the nature of this inexhaustible vastness allows no final or definitive knowledge. The absolute is knowable in that we can become aware of it; many poets and spiritual masters spent their lives talking and writing about it. It is unknowable in that our knowledge is endless and cannot be final. Its nature is indeterminable because it is inexhaustible. The knowledge of the absolute always involves the revelations of the process of contemplating it, of experiencing it ever more deeply and clearly. It always involves a contemplating consciousness. The absolute is not absolutely alone. When there is no longer a contemplating consciousness, then there is no reflection on the absolute; there is only being it. Then there is no content that can be pointed to. In other words, no fixed position or final conclusion can be taken regarding the absolute. To fully apprehend it is to know it as mystery.
Luminous Night's Journey, pg. 118
The absolute is knowable in the sense that anything else is knowable. We can experience it and know many things about it. We can have many insights and illuminations about its nature. Yet these insights and illuminations never fully capture it, never totally describe it, never truly delineate it. We can know much about it, but the more we know the more we realize how much we do not know, and how mysterious it is. In other words, our knowledge of it, regardless how deep and exhaustive, never exhausts its truth, never encapsulates it. It is knowable, for if it is unknowable then this is its determination, but it cannot be fully knowable, otherwise it will be determinable. It is the inexhaustible mystery.
Diamond Heart Book Four, pg. 319
One is the Ultimate Subject, which Cannot be an Object of Perception, and Hence is Unknown and Unknowable
Even consciousness, which is not exactly a concept, can be shed. At some point, usually without anticipating it, one realizes that one is perceiving the Nameless Reality as external to oneself. One becomes aware that one is beyond the Nameless, and the world that it supports, as an unknowable mystery. The Nonconceptual Reality, which is the ground of the world of concepts, is experienced here as not absolutely real. In fact, it is experienced as a radiance, ephemeral and insubstantial, in relation to and emanating from an unfathomable Absolute. One realizes that one’s most absolute nature, which turns out to be the underlying nature of all of existence, transcends not only the mind, but consciousness itself. One is the beyond, beyond whatever can be experienced or perceived. Absence is seen as an incomplete glimpse into the Absolute. One is the ultimate subject, which cannot be an object of perception, and hence is unknown and unknowable. The Absolute is not aware of itself, but awareness of everything else proceeds from it, while what characterizes consciousness is that it is conscious of itself.
Pearl Beyond Price, pg. 468
Only in Pure Being Does the Differentiation Between Personality and Essence Dissolve
There is no sense of discontinuity of experience in awakening. It is not that something that was not there is now manifest. It is more like becoming cognizant of the presence of something that has always been there, and known to be there, but ignored. It is the only aspect of Being that is never lost, and when one experiences it, one realizes it was never lost, and cannot be lost. One merely wakes up to the fact that “Oh, that’s it.” There is no beginning of experience and no end of experiencing here. It is waking up to the fact that this is one’s nature, it always has been, and one has always known that, but did not pay it notice. As Pure Being, one realizes: Nothing can exist without me, not just because I am the very nature of everything; for I am everything. There is no separation here between appearance and Essence of nature. I am both and beyond. I am the nature of thought. The moment the mind turns towards me it disappears. It becomes me, and there is then only me, Pure Being, as I have always been. Mind disappears as mind and appears as Being. There is no Essence and personality, no Being and ego, for me; for I am both. I am the nature and being of both. Only in me, Pure Being, does the differentiation between personality and Essence dissolve. I am unknowable, in the sense that there is no differentiated quality to be discerned. I am merely being, without reflecting on Being. The Personal Essence is an easy access to this aspect because it is a personal Being. One merely has to be and, by and by, one is the supreme reality.
Pearl Beyond Price, pg. 446
Only the Unqualified Being Exists, and Differentiation and Discrimination are Only Appearance, Ultimately Unreal
It is possible to see the Personal Essence as a concept, as not having a final reality. This is the perception of the nonconceptual aspect of Being, the supreme unknowable ground of reality. It is the experience of absolute oneness in which there are no discriminations, as Lao Tzu says above. All forms are seen to exist only as concepts, and hence are taken not to have a separate existence. All duality is absent in this realization. However, from this perspective, not only the Personal Essence is seen to be a concept, but so are love, compassion, consciousness, awareness and so on. In other words, from the perspective of the supreme reality of the undifferentiated aspect of Being, all aspects of Essence are seen to be conceptual (as well as, for that matter, the entirety of the physical world, including the body). Only the unqualified Being exists, and differentiation and discrimination are only appearance, ultimately unreal. This is the nature of the experience of the nonconceptual reality of Being, of Being-as-such. This experience also feels so real, so profound and so comprehensive that it has a flavor of finality to it. It is experienced as an objective fact. In the theistic traditions it is usually equated with God, the Supreme Being.
Pearl Beyond Price, pg. 110
Recognizing Oneself as an Absence, Unknown and Unknowable
In Absence one experiences oneself to be a pure subject, that is not an object. One is the source of awareness. One is not the witness, not the witnessing, not the witnessed. One recognizes oneself as an Absence, unknown and unknowable. When one looks inward there is no perception; there is absolute Absence without consciousness of Absence, because Absence is not an object of perception. It is in fact the absence of an object of perception.
Pearl Beyond Price, pg. 463
The Absolute Experiencing the Absolute
The deepest, most objective state one can experience, in the sense that there is nothing that you can experience beyond it, is what we call the Absolute. The Absolute is absolutely unchangeable, absolutely itself, absolute in the sense that it’s ultimate. You cannot experience anything beyond it. It does not make sense that there could be anything beyond it. Some traditions call it the “mystery,” or the “unknowable.” The dimension of the Absolute is the peak, but it is not a peak in the sense of the peak of a mountain. It is fundamental. If you consider physical matter, for instance, and go deeper and deeper, until you get to the most elementary element, what is the farthest you can go, where you can’t go any further? Without limitations on what levels can be perceived, what will you finally reach? The Absolute. The experience of the Absolute here is actually the Absolute experiencing the Absolute in itself; we could say experiencing itself as the Absolute, but it is not really as, since there is no separation or mediation in the experience. This is the only way it is possible to experience the Absolute completely, as the Absolute experiencing the Absolute. If the Absolute is experiencing the Absolute, the experience is that there is no experience. Absolutely That’s why it’s called the Absolute! It’s absolutely empty of anything you can call experience. If I experience myself as Absolute, then the experience is “I don’t know.” I don’t know anything. And I don’t know that I don’t know. “I don’t know” means that I am not conscious. I am not conscious of anything, and I am not conscious that I am not conscious of anything. It is similar to deep sleep. When you are in deep sleep, you don’t know you are in deep sleep. It’s as if there is nothing there. You are gone, absolutely gone. You’re out of it. So the Absolute is like that. It is the ultimate, deepest nature of everything.
Diamond Heart Book Four, pg. 319
The Deepest Mystery, Unknowable by Mind or by Consciousness
As the sense of knowingness and consciousness dissolves, the soul is in cessation; it has no sense of being or existence. We call this the Absolute. You realize your final nature is not that cosmic existence, but the source of cosmic existence. You discover that the nature of the human being you have taken yourself to be is ultimately the source of everything. This is the deepest mystery, unknowable by mind or by consciousness. You realize that the universe is simply a robe that you wear. When you take it off is when you go to sleep. The Absolute is like the sleep of the cosmic existence; the cosmic existence is like the waking up of the Absolute. The cosmic existence is the day; the Absolute, the night.
Diamond Heart Book Five, pg. 117
The Supreme is an Unknowable Reality Because It is Nonconceptual
The Personal Essence, although it is not as universal or final an experience as the Supreme or the Absolute, is actually a greater miracle. The Supreme is an unknowable reality because it is nonconceptual. However, it is easily recognized when experienced. It is easily understood, though not by the mind. The Personal Essence, on the other hand, is a much more mysterious experience. It is much more difficult to understand or grasp. It is quite a mystery, a miraculous mystery, that Being can feel personal. None of the aspects of Essence, not even the Supreme and the Absolute aspects, feel personal, except for this one aspect. It is true that it is easier, for most people, to precipitate the experience of the Personal Essence than the experience of the nonconceptual aspect of Being. However, this is different from the full integration of the Personal Essence. One can have some, or even many, experiences of the Personal Essence and still identify with ego. But this is a far cry from its full development and integration. It seems that the full integration of the Personal Essence is a much more difficult realization than that of the Supreme Reality. The realization of the oneness of the nonconceptual Being is, in fact, one of the requirements for the integration of the Personal Essence.
Pearl Beyond Price, pg. 112
When You Can’t Pinpoint Yourself with Your Mind then You’re Free
When you know that you are unknowable, you know you cannot be any image, you cannot be your body or your personality, you cannot be what your mother thought you were or what your father said you were; you cannot be rejected or hurt, you cannot die or be afraid because anything that can die is knowable. What can die? The body can die. What can be hurt? Your ideas about yourself, your self-image? But when you know that you are not knowable, how can anybody hurt or reject you? How can anyone do anything to you? Even your own mind can’t hurt you. How can you criticize yourself? What’s there to criticize? But as long as you have ideas about who you are, you will have ideas about how you should be, and criticize yourself: you should be bigger, smaller, smarter, better looking. But when you reach the place of understanding, your mind asks, “What is this?” and the only answer is “Beats me.” You honestly don’t know. So you can’t give yourself a hard time. You don’t know because you cannot be known. That’s freedom, then. When you can’t pinpoint yourself with your mind, then you’re free. Nothing can happen to you. You’re beyond the concepts of the mind. You’re beyond the concepts of pain and pleasure, life and death, big and small, good and bad. It is the final understanding, the final knowledge and fruit of knowledge to know that you are not knowable.
Diamond Heart Book Three, pg. 158
When You Understand the Unknowable, You Can Understand the Nature of Concepts and How They Can be Used
Concepts are useful, but they trap you if you forget that they are concepts, if you take them to be the actual reality. And of course, the most difficult, ensnaring trap is to take your concepts of yourself to be who you really are. If you believe the concept of the car is the actual car, you won’t be seeing reality completely clearly, but it’s not going to hurt you. Right? But if you take your concept of yourself as you, that’s when your problems start. When you understand the unknowable, you can understand the nature of concepts and how they can be used. Concepts are seen as neutral. Like many other things, how concepts are used determines the nature of their effect. You can be restricted by concepts, or you can use them intelligently, expanding them from smaller to bigger and bigger ones, until the concept becomes so big that it has no boundaries, and ceases being a concept. That then is the unknowable.