Let’s talk about the difference between believing and knowing. We live in a time in which much of what we think we know is ‘received information’. We receive information from books, from newspapers and magazines, from the internet, and from what other people tell us. This process starts at an early age. Children receive answers to their questions from their parents. At school we are taught in classrooms and told to find further information from written sources.
Acquiring received information is efficient. We can ‘learn’ more quickly this way than if we had to find out everything firsthand.Much of the structure of the modern world could not exist without learning from received information. For instance an up to date understanding of the natural sciences depends on taking earlier advances at face value rather than each of us replicating the key experiments.
However consuming received information is not the only way we learn. We also learn from experience.
Received information leads us to hold beliefs. Those beliefs may or may not subsequently be validated by our own experience. If a belief is not subsequently the subject of direct experience, then it remains a belief. There is a vast territory of such beliefs in each of our minds. We may hold beliefs conditionally, weakly, moderately, or even strongly, but until they are substantiated by direct experience they must necessarily all remain beliefs.
Experience however leads to knowing. Once you have experienced something, it is no longer a belief; you know it. Knowing is more powerful than believing.
There are some understandings of the world that cannot be acquired by means of received information. The most commonly cited example is ‘what it feels like to be in love.’ You could read as many books as you like about being in love but you would have only an intellectual impression of what it means to be infatuated with someone. Once you have experienced being in love, even if you have never read a single word about the matter, then and only then do you know what it’s like to be in love.
Knowledge acquired through experience has a greater power within us. It sits deeper and holds more firmly than any belief that we may have acquired from received information.
This is not a rigorous philosophical categorisation of forms of knowledge, I have no time for that, it’s a practical examination of the human condition. In fact all the above is preamble, to provide you with some context for the statements that I am going to make, as follows:
- Notwithstanding our common humanity, we cannot know ourselves from received information. Whilst others may have provided perspectives from their own examinations of themselves, ultimately self-knowledge has to be experienced.
- Knowing the truth about ourselves is the most powerful form of knowledge that there is.
- We each need this self-knowledge to achieve the ultimate understanding that I want you to have.
Well there’s a paradox! I am asserting something in a form that for you will be received information, but I’m also saying that received information is not good enough for our purposes. So you will not be able just to read these messages to ultimately know what I know, to understand what I understand. I will need you first to know yourself in order to take you on this journey, and only you can do that. Not to worry though, there are ways and means to get this done as you shall see in due course.