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  • Writer's pictureAnne Sweet

Certainty and Not Knowing

Self-knowledge gives a certain confidence. We know that we know. And in one sense this is true ... we do know. A similar confidence can come from being deeply aligned with a spiritual tradition or teaching. We can rely on the tradition/teaching to provide us with ready-made answers and this gives us a sense of certainty or knowing.

However, a problem arises when we extrapolate that knowing (our own direct experience or the tenets of the teaching) into a universal truth (this is true for all people at all times in all places). For example,"You must have a teacher" is held by some to be an absolute truth. Others hold to be an absolute truth that "There is nothing to teach and no-one to teach or learn". It seems to me that each assertion can be true in certain circumstances for certain people at certain times, but are either of these statements always, absolutely, universally true?

Confidence in our knowing and understanding is a precious gift, but don't we also need to consider if that confidence is causing us to cease questioning our assumptions or leading us to draw conclusions that may be true for us but not necessarily true for everyone else?

Perhaps our certainty and confidence need to be counterbalanced with a healthy measure of humility and the willingness to not know, to not be so certain; and to be open to the legitimacy and value of other perspectives and ways of interpreting/understanding/experiencing this vast, complex, unknowable Mystery.

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I was stunned when I realized that all my ideas about renunciation were mistaken. As I came to understand it, the renunciation of external things – sex, money, fame, comfort, was only a preparation:

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Amir Freimann
Amir Freimann
14 Απρ 2021

Indeed, so true.

It's easier to see this, though, with "relative truths" or truths concerning the human condition, such as "You must have a teacher" or "There is nothing and no-one to teach or learn". It's even harder when we come to "the absolute truth". For example, is the ultimate nature of reality formless emptiness or energy/vibration in endless forms and patterns? Is it perfectly neutral or absolute positivity/love?

I'm curious as to how you understand the fact that different "knowers of reality" answer these questions differently - and with an absolute sense of knowing.


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