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Unknowing / Unknowingness

Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Unknowing / Unknowingness?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Unknowing / Unknowingness

A Dynamic Not-Knowing Implies an Unknowingness that is Moving Toward Knowing, an Unknowingness that is Interested to Know

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. What I am saying is that a dynamic not-knowing is one that is open to knowledge. It is not just a passive attitude that leaves things as unknown. It is a not-knowing that is full of interest, passionate about knowing, in love with discovery—a not-knowing that points to the possibility of further knowing. In terms of basic knowledge, this possibility leads to further discovery, further experience, further expansion. Let’s take the example we used in the last chapter: You walk into a room full of people and recognize that you are scared, but you don’t know why. You can leave it at that, or you can become curious about finding out why you don’t know. What is this fear about? This attitude toward your experience is dynamic unknowingness, which is an expression of basic knowledge. It is basic knowledge moving toward optimizing its condition, for further knowledge is a greater illumination. More accurately, it is basic knowledge embodying the optimizing force of Being. 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.

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 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? I am not trying to give you an answer; I’m just giving you a question. You need to let your being be ablaze like a flame, an aspiring flame, with no preconceived ideas about what it aspires to. To be just burning intensely, deeply wanting to know, wanting to see the truth without following any preconceptions, totally in the present with the question itself, and let it burn away all the ideas, all the beliefs, all the concepts, even the ones you learned from the great teachings. If you don’t allow that flame completely, will you ever rest in your life? Will you ever rest in your life as long as you’re covering up your question, answering it before it’s really answered? Will you ever really be content with someone else’s answer?

Even When You Experience Not-knowing it’s Knowingness. You’re Knowing that You Don’t Know. You’re 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.

Inquiry Becomes the Manifestation of Unknowingness in Our Experience and the Moving Toward Illuminating this Unknowingness

Our soul can inquire because it can question, and by questioning it opens up its basic knowledge for Being to disclose its mysteries. This disclosure of the mysteries of Being is the optimization of this basic knowledge. We are then embodying a dynamic openness that expresses a dynamic knowingness. Inquiry includes other elements such as knowledge, observation, awareness, concentration, reflection, intelligence, and so on. Yet questioning stands as the central initiating process that acts on all these others, integrating and directing them toward a specific object of investigation. Therefore, to learn to inquire, we first need to learn about questions and questioning. We need to liberate our questioning mind and to expand the dynamic openness at the center of our questions. Inquiry then becomes the manifestation of unknowingness in our experience and the moving toward illuminating this unknowingness. This illumination of unknowingness becomes the emergence, the arising, of new dimensions of experience, the unfoldment of our soul. To learn to inquire means to learn to question your experience in a way that will cause it to unfold.

Inquiry, Based on Love and Dynamic Openness, is a Journey of Wonderment whose Center is a Question that Embodies Knowing and Unknowing

As we have seen, inquiry uses many faculties, capacities, and skills. It uses mindfulness and concentration. It uses reasoning and intuition. It uses analysis and synthesis. It uses observation and knowledge. It uses energy and intelligence. All of these we will explore in more depth as we go along. But inquiry’s central tool is a question. Here we have been exploring four factors in asking a question: first, the unknowingness, which expresses the dynamic openness; second, direct observation of our immediate experience; third, ordinary knowledge bringing relevant information from the past; and fourth, the organic, self-responsive intelligence. We can say that inquiry is mindfulness with a dynamism that is open to seeing what it does not know, plus concentration with an energy that loves to find out the truth that it does not know. Concentration is necessary for staying on track and not getting distracted by stimuli that aren’t relevant to the particular inquiry. Mindfulness provides the capacity to be aware of anything that emerges in experience, regardless of how minute or subtle. The global awareness of mindfulness reveals the patterns of unknowing in experience. And questioning directs consciousness to investigate the not-knowing. Inquiry, based on love and dynamic openness, is a journey of wonderment whose center is a question that embodies knowing and unknowing. That dynamic openness makes all our questions penetrating and encompassing, which activates the optimizing force of Being—in the form of the Diamond Guidance—so that it may reveal the hidden truth, the truth beyond the known. What is needed now is love of the truth for its own sake to give that questioning power and urgency, enough to carry our spacecruiser out of our earthbound orbit and into the depths of the mystery.

Sometimes Your Question Doesn’t Have Words, It Has Only this Dynamic Unknowingness

It is true that a question includes concepts, words, and previous knowledge, but what is its living force? If it is a genuine question, the living force in it is this unknowingness that wants to know, this dynamic unknowingness. The openness manifests at the beginning as not-knowing. And as questioning continues, this not-knowing proceeds toward the revelation of whatever manifestation will occur in that space of not-knowing. So the not-knowing, in some very real sense, invites the answer. That is why I call it dynamic. A question is an interesting manifestation of the soul. It is not just a string of words in your mind. If it were only that, there would be no movement in your inquiry. A question has to have a heart to it, a living force. This living force is the unknowingness that is dynamically moving toward knowing. If you directly sense this self-directed movement of aliveness, you can actually experience the flow of the soul, the dynamic nature of who you are, separate from any particular content. In this way, the soul directly links the unfoldment of Being with the asking of a question. So the openness, the unknowingness, the investigating, can be expressed with words, but the questioning itself doesn’t have to have words; the dynamic unknowingness is the questioning itself. And you will find that sometimes your question doesn’t have words, it has only this dynamic unknowingness. But since you are investigating something in particular, you build on that wordless unknowingness by formulating words and concepts and bringing in what you know from the past. But the force itself, the current that moves, is a dynamic unknowingness, which is an expression of our Being. Now it is becoming clear how inquiry is the expression of the dynamism of Being. The center of inquiry is questioning, and a question is a direct experience of this dynamism. Dynamism generally manifests as an actual unfoldment, a presentation of Being, but it can also manifest as the part of the unfoldment that activates the dynamism.

The Central Element of a Question is the Unknowingness that Expresses this Dynamic Openness

A question has enfolded in it many elements. In fact, it would be difficult to isolate all of them, for they overlap and interact with each other. Let’s go more deeply into four that are vital to the effectiveness of the question. We are trying to study inquiry in as much detail as possible so that we can discover more about its components and how we can maximize them. We have seen that, more than anything else, inquiry requires an openness to transformation, to new presentations—an openness to seeing the truth. It is a dynamic openness, an openness that has the potential to unfold, to open up to new possibilities. It is not just space, it is a fertile space, and the fact that it is a space allows manifestations to emerge within it. It is a space that has the potential for creation, for creating content within it. Not-knowing is the way we enter into this dynamic openness, and this unknowingness is the essence of a question. The dynamic openness manifests in inquiry as a question, as a questioning movement. So the central element of a question is the unknowingness that expresses this dynamic openness.

Furthermore, the dynamic openness needs to be multidirectional, directed not merely toward what you think you are inquiring into, but toward the totality of the experiential field. This means that when we are inquiring into a certain experience or manifestation, there is a constant questioning of the inquirer throughout the process, regardless of the object of inquiry. The openness is only maintained when the questioning moves in both directions. If you are focused only on the object of inquiry without looking at yourself, your questions will be dictated by your biases, positions, and unexamined assumptions. This ordinary knowledge will then guide the questioning. However, if the questioning also includes an awareness of and an inquiry into where you are coming from, then you will have a greater openness to seeing more of the truth of the situation.

The Flame of the Search is Ignited Only When We Accept Our Unknowing and Still Aspire to Discover the Truth of Our Situation

To pursue this search, we need to be interested in the truth of our experience, unhampered by biases about what this truth might be, or even in which direction to look for it. When we sincerely desire to know the truth, we feel that our soul is on fire. We become an aspiring flame, a burning question mark. We aspire towards the truth without mentally knowing what we are searching for. This flame of the search is the soul that has awakened to its existential condition and discovered the emptiness of that condition. We know that something is amiss, and we passionately want to uncover the truth of it. In the very substance of our soul we want to find out for ourselves. 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 Guest is Pure Unknowingness; there is No Mind, No Darkness and No Light

The Guest is pure unknowingness; there is no mind, no darkness and no light. There is no consciousness, nothing to be known and no one to know it. The Guest is pre-everything. Let’s say you become the absolute potential for all there is. But these are just words. We can say that you become the source of all you see. That’s a nice idea, but again the words fail to capture the reality. We can say you are before there was the word, but we’re still thinking of the word, the first word. But before the word, before you heard the first news, what was there? What was that like? It’s an absolutely unselfconscious spontaneity. When there is only the back that is the front, then there is only spontaneity. Spontaneity is blocked only when there are two. One says this, the other says that. When there is just the one, it is just spontaneity, without even knowing it. What is said is said completely. What is done is done totally, without an afterthought. And whatever is done or said is, by its very saying or its very doing, absolutely consumed, absolutely finished. When I say the Guest appears in the heart, I don’t mean you see something or someone in the heart. The heart becomes like a window that opens to the night. The heart opens to the world of absolute mystery, to the prior of time and space, the prior of light and knowledge. The love affair with the Guest is of a different quality, a different character. We can say that the usual love affairs are the love affairs of the day. The love affair with the Guest is the love affair of the night. It’s the secret love affair, the most intimate. It is so secret your mind doesn’t know it. And your heart knows it only by being absolutely consumed with passion.

The Pattern of Unknowing is, in Some Sense, the Guidance of Our Inquiry

We have previously discussed how openness is necessary for inquiry. What is this openness for inquiry, and how do we recognize it? We see now that a fundamental characteristic of this openness is not-knowing. You are not open to find something out if you do not acknowledge and respect your not-knowing of what you are investigating. The not-knowing and the openness to find out that is at the heart of inquiry are really expressions of the same thing. The more we think we know what is going on, the less open we are to find out; the more we acknowledge that we don’t know, the more open we are to discover what’s there. This means a greater possibility for inquiry, and a more effective 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. Inquiry invites basic knowledge to speak—for instance, in disclosing the limitations in our knowledge and experience. It investigates the possibility that knowingness can appear within what we do not know. Inquiry involves a not-knowing, but it also involves investigating what you do not know, which allows knowledge to emerge. In inquiry, there is an interplay between knowing and not-knowing, but the ground is not-knowing. This ground of not-knowing is what expresses the necessary openness. And as you investigate, this openness allows Being to disclose the truth of the situation. Finally you arrive at new knowledge, but this knowledge emerges within not-knowing and continues to be surrounded by it.

The Understanding that the Unknowing of the Divine Darkness is Actually the True Knowing of the Transcendent Truth

The understanding that the unknowing of the divine darkness is actually the true knowing of the transcendent truth has been known by many of the Western mystics. Plotinus saw it as knowing through presence, not through intellection, a knowing specific to the knowing of the One, for “the main source of the difficulty is that awareness of this Principle comes neither by knowing nor by the Intellection that discovers the Intellectual beings, but by a presence overpassing all knowledge.” (Plotinus, Enneads, p. 539.) The most well-known Western mystic of divine darkness is Denys the Areopagite, who speaks of the ascent of the soul using the analogy of Moses’ ascent of the holy mount, demonstrating that he saw the divine darkness as the ultimate knowing: “And then Moses is cut off from both things seen and those who see and enters into the darkness of unknowing, a truly hidden darkness, according to which he shuts his eyes to all apprehensions that convey knowledge, for he has passed into a realm quite beyond any feeling or seeing. Now, belonging wholly to that which is beyond all, and yet to nothing at all, and being neither himself, nor another, and united in his highest part in passivity (anenergesia) with Him who is completely unknowable, he knows by not knowing in a manner that transcends understanding.” (Quoted in Andrew Louth, The Origins of the Christian Mystical Tradition, p. 173.)

Unknowing that is Also 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. We can know it, but to know it is to know it as mystery, the ultimate mystery from which all being and knowledge arise. To feel the exquisite intimacy of its nonbeingness and to see the absolute blackness of its emptiness is to behold a majestic mystery, luminous and deep, awesome and enveloping, yet inviting in its annihilating touch and caressing in its melting embrace. We behold a mystery that we passionately wish to know, and we know that to know it is to cease being, yet we long to be embraced by its annihilation and love, to be taken in by its cessation. To know it is to cease, and to cease is to know it. To know it is to not know it, but to not know is to know it. To know it is to know it as mystery. It is the mystery that must remain a mystery, which cannot but be a mystery. Its being a mystery saves us from the obsessions of our mind, and from the false securities that our false self thrives on. We behold it as mystery, a mystery that by remaining a mystery liberates us from the traps of the manifest world. We learn to live in mystery, to be supported by ultimate insecurity, and to love the flavor of nonbeing.

Without Any Knowing, there Won’t be Any Question and Without Any Unknowing There Won’t be Any Questioning

A question expresses both the fertile openness of true nature and the love that characterizes the dynamic creative force of that nature. The question invites revelation because its love for knowledge engages Being’s love of revealing itself, and the openness of the question expresses Being’s infinite and unlimited potentiality—both the source of all manifestation and the space that allows those potentialities to arise. From our limited individual perspective, we are aware of the herald of Being’s new revelations as a question. For a question is how the creativity of Being’s dynamism appears in our limited mind. 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. So a question is a dynamic manifestation that integrates in itself the openness of true nature, the dynamism of true nature, and the knowingness of true nature, all at the same time. By extension, the entire process of inquiry also embodies the openness of true nature, the knowingness of true nature, and the dynamism of true nature. That’s why inquiry is not just a passive witnessing, it is an active engagement. When I ask a question, I’m interested to know; I’m not just sitting here watching what passes in front of me. When something passes in front of me, I’m going to inquire into it—dissect and analyze it, contemplate and question it.

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