Knowledge & the Unknown

We build our own kingdoms, brick by brick. We lay the foundations of our subjective experience, interpreting all, assimilating all. Safe, comfortable, known.

But part of the journey is also not becoming lost in the canvas of our own creation. Unconscious dreaming and conscious dreaming ring a bell here—how can we gain more lucidity in our lives?

The idea that we can reach some objective view point is probably more of an ideal than a reality. And yet, there is some form of temperament in ourselves, some way to “check,” to see if we are getting lost in ourselves. One way, is of course communication with others. They can give us input about what they see us doing, things we may not have realized until they are directly pointed out.

Another form of mindfulness, is reminding ourselves that we are not our thoughts. They are a part of who we are, but our emotions, our thoughts, our feelings, senses, all of that is more of a free-floating stream of things we often attach “I” to.

It’s healthy and natural, but equally important is the idea that we shouldn’t lose ourselves in our images, whatever arises in our awareness. They can give us meaning and help us learn more about ourselves, but ultimately we are not the transient objects of awareness. Creating a “space,” within ourselves, or rather discovering that space is very important. Like finding the blank canvas beneath the many dazzling colors and shapes. It anchors us and allows creativity, meaning, exploration to flow freely in our lives. It allows life to be more like an artistic journey of self discovery.

Jung mentions that the union of opposites is the sign of self-actualizing, maturity, growth, or transcendence. I think this is very true.

One good question I’ve been wondering about is, how to balance these two apparent opposites: the known and unknown? Often enough we are content to build our mental fortress and put up walls around ourselves. Content to live with our images and forgetting the other aspects of ourselves that would, if brought into awareness, allow for the difficult but transformative journey of self-discovery.

From my current reading of Jung, what we are all potentially capable of is an alchemy of the psyche. The union of opposites. But the only way achieve such a unity is to allow for the polarity to exist. Not to suppress one thing or another but to view both and accept both in equanimity. In our psychological journey, then, we often appear to be out of balance. Many seek to build a mental fortress, to stand and depend upon images they perceive as “outside” themselves to support them. We look to spiritual teachers for guidance, we depend on specific images which pertain to what we are “expecting” to happen and what we believe should happen. We build mental fortresses around ourselves and can often end up living in them.

This is particularly appropriate for the spiritual seeker, as he or she will find many unique “systems,” which lay the path out for them. How far does one go before they are merely living in their own illusion? How much do they end up conditioning a novel spiritual experience with their expectations of it? We end up, more often than not, limiting ourselves.

In my opinion at least, we live in a culture which sees itself as incapable of making the journey without dependency. Help and guidance are certainly natural forces, but when we become fixated on needing others, we often oscillate between dependency, and rebellion: “I need this,” or “I can do it all on my own!” Where is the balance? In my own life, this is certainly resonant.

We all are in need of guidance from time to time, and its very important to learn to listen to others so we don’t become completely isolated and too headstrong. A particular openness, with both the world outside, the world inside, is important. I think, at least part of the time, we don’t get to the point where we can accept ourselves but instead create an image of what we should be doing, and try to live “up” to that. How could we ever change what we are, if we are not first aware of what we are?

It’s my belief that all human beings are capable of transformation and growth. Despite being hard on ourselves, in whatever way we do that, the tools are within us to develop ourselves, to cultivate a healthy psyche. It’s not easy, however, as it demands we accept both the positive and negatively perceived dimensions. The masculine and feminine. The journey of self discovery, self-knowledge is not easy, and often enough we turn away from it because the chaos of instability, of these mental fortresses, are easier. Let things fall apart, let things barely hold together, for the alternative is just too much to ask for!

One great tool, as mentioned previously, is finding a space in ourselves. The timeless, eternal space, which everything else dynamically emerges from. We can cultivate this good earth with the aid of mindfulness, compassion, equanimity. Meditation in this regard is the vital nutrition of the psyche. It brings to our awareness the personal unconscious, the spiritual, the synchronicity, and overall connection we have with the universe; both within and without. They say love is the greatest tool, and I believe this is true. But it is not an idealistic love, but a radical, unconditional love, the eternal being which is within us all. Discovering this requires us to become alchemists of the soul and heart. It is within us all to do so.

This is really only the beginning of my own journey, and from what I’m seeing, it’s an on-going process in the same way music, or art or any form of mastery is a movement, but a movement from stillness. The mastery of opposites. Isn’t this the delicate balance of the form and formless, resting somehow in a third component, the union, the non-dual?

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One thought on “Knowledge & the Unknown

  1. There is indeed almost always a tertiary component at play (what has oft been called ‘the law of threes’). Insofar as knowledge is concerned, Carlos Castaneda pointed out: the known, the unknown (yet knowable) and the uknowable (that which awaits beyond physical extinction).

    In Buddhism we have the concept of Madhyamika (the middle way). They say that Siddhartha – on the verge of starvation while he was still an ascetic overheard a father and son on a raft floating down the river talking about a musical instrument: “If the string is too loose, then no sound can be produced. But if the string is too tight then it will snap, and again, no sound can be produced.”

    Their simple discussion made him realize that he himself had been pursuing extremes his whole life.

    You are correct in asserting that there must be a happy medium somewhere between seemingly opposing polarities. Although it might seem like a trite, self-evident truism, people lose sight that language (especially in the Western tradition) is deceptive and has most of us convinced that one thing has ascendancy over another within any given binary pair. Everything in our experience thus appears to be in contention – i.e. inside vs outside, self against other, male over female, body or soul, etc. Such perceptions condition our emotions, which cause us to put up barriers against the possibility of reconciliation. Therein lies the sad irony of the matter.

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