The limits of “knowing”

After the renaissance in Europe (14th-17th century) a revolution in science and rational thinking began, which ultimately led to the amazing technology we now use and depend on every day. Seeking more knowledge and developing new technology clearly has many practical advantages, logical thinking has proven to be a very useful tool. Now in the 21st century, we live in the age of science, reason and rationality. Some scientists even think that ultimately everything (about reality) can and will be known, which suggests that knowledge seems to be the ultimate means we have to evolve as human beings.

The question this article poses: does the knowing-of-things have limitations?

One aspect is the fact that we are not infinitely smart and therefore at some point we’ll stumble on the limits of the human brain. This already seems to be so for quantum mechanics since nobody understands what the Schrödinger equation and wavefunction actually “is”, although the models and formulae work fine. That’s not the point though.

A more interesting question is: what does it mean when we say that we know something?

When you look deeper you will notice that knowledge always introduces a subject who knows something about an object. This implies that our thought-processes are inherently dualistic (subject-object) and only offer models and ideas about something.

The dangerous aspect of “knowing-things” is we start to believe that we know what something actually “is” and that is the great illusion!

When you for instance read the daily news about all that happens in the world, in a way you are made to believe that many of the reports describe situations/things which are real and actually exist.

The daily information we are bombarded with suggests that there really is something like the USA, and there really are democrats and republicans, there really are countries or groups of people who are the enemy, there really are conflicts between people of different religions, and so on and so forth… It’s absolutely endless and this process of “news” has been going on for thousands of years.

When you actually look deeper, you may wake up to seeing that all of these statements  are only based on thoughts about apparent people, things, objects etc. They are just stating concepts and labels.

Have you however ever seen “Europe” or “Asia”?  Have you ever met a “Chinese”? Do you really think that some people are your political opponents? Sorry folks, it is all one grand illusion, none of it is real, even though many people take these labels very seriously and this kind of information constantly seems to affirm that we are talking about “reality”. It’s not hard to see how such thinking leads to division, conflict and misery. When you are convinced there are real “enemies” out there, you are willing to wage war upon them, aren’t you? Could it be, that an “enemy” is nothing but a label you created in your head? Have you realized that some people may believe that you are their “enemy”?

You might ask; what happens when you truly wake up and see the illusion of this? It means you can’t take it seriously anymore, nor can you live and act like it’s real, right?

So what remains then?

The simple answer is; Life remains, Existence or Being, whatever you like to call it. Now you see “it all” without the labeling, all the ideas, without all the “knowing-about”. One could call that living as “not-knowing”, but language actually can’t capture it.

There is beauty in that, there is great freedom and love in that…always fresh and never known. What an amazing discovery and so simple really… So that’s the invitation. To dare and look into this…


  1. Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about language, ideas, even the phrase ‘each other’ doesn’t make any sense. ~Rumi

  2. This gets at something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. My hunch is that people create systems of beliefs because post Enlightenment in the West has become a very cerebral and cognitive oriented space. But ask anyone on the street what has shaped their life the most and they will convey a story; an experience.

    I think this is because experiences are tied so heavily to our emotions, which shape individuals much more primarily than thoughts. It’s why you can know a lot about God or the universe, but find that you really know nothing when you experience Oneness or awakening

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