Friday, May 09, 2008

In his book, The Soul’s Religion, Thomas Moore has some interesting things to say which I would like to pass along for everyone’s consideration…These excerpts are from his chapter entitled, Holy Ignorance…

Moore writes…

Holy ignorance asks that we confess our limitations.

With holy ignorance we don’t have to berate ourselves for not knowing everything. There is no one to blame. We can even feel relief at not having to know everything. It is obvious, anyway, that we can’t handle our most basic problems….To know that we don’t know the ultimate secrets of human existence should give up hope, because the failure confirms that our efforts by themselves are incomplete. There is still room for that which is beyond comprehension and for a way of knowing that is profoundly satisfying instead of only superficially workable.

Our problem with knowledge is largely an emotional one. Above all we don’t want to be wrong. The secular form or scientific knowledge, in bracketing out mystery, and mysticism, leaves us on shaky ground…because…Only part of intelligence is engaged, the part that works with facts and measurement. Since that approach is incomplete, it leaves us worried, because intuitively we know that there is more to be considered.

Insecurity can also derive from a failure of faith. Everyone needs a philosophy of life and a religious position that is worth the risk on one’s life. A religious imagination that satisfies intelligence and inspires with honesty can give a person confidence and stability, but only if a degree of mystery is allowed.

Anxiety stems from a weakness in imagination. Instead of living courageously at the edge of understanding, knowing that they don’t know everything, many latch onto a system of belief that answers any and all questions. These answers then become a protective fence around a nervous core. But this illusory edifice creates false certainty. The failure to find a satisfying solution to mystery translates into extravagant claims and an attitude of righteousness.

Acknowledging basic ignorance offers a measure of security. We can be as ease in our honesty, admitting that we don’t know much about the most important things. Pretending that I know more may make me feel superior, but the price is deep anxiety. Owning our uncertainty, we can laugh in our ignorance and enjoy the cosmic nature of our puny efforts. An ironic trust in life comes into existence at that liminal point between knowing and not knowing. Take away the ignorance and there would be no room for the faith that keeps us going and the humor that keeps us sane.

Knowledge always has a wedge of ignorance in it, because the only way to be wise is not to understand everything. Ignorance, too, should have a wedge of intelligence so that it isn’t mere stupidity. Real understanding is a creative mixture of certainty and unknowing. The trick is to know even when you don’t understand.

Rooted in holy uncertainty, we are left with approximations…our language for God is like a polygon made of many tiny straight lines passing for a true circle…and…If we look closely at our reasonings, we find that for all their brilliance, in the end they come up short.

The holy person is the one who has broken through self deception and knows nhow much they don’t know. The point in thinking is to reach the far edge of understanding and to stand there in wonder

We are only approximately correct when we speak about spiritual matters., the part that remains unknown and unspoken gives our words and ideas the emptiness they require. If there is no respect for that edge of illusion, then we left with literalism and fundamentalism.

The sensation of knowing offers a certain kind of security, but it can easily be challenged. Religious and spiritual people are forever defending their beliefs, often with a belligerence that is unbecoming to themselves.


Kansas Bob said...

I heard it said this way:

Humility is knowing that what you know about what you know the most about is insignificant compared to what there is to know about what you know the most about.

Unfortunately for many of us that have "found the truth" we think that we found it all.. a sad commentary about us and our pride. This pride is what seperates us.. but that humility is what unites us.. too bad most of us want to unify around our version of truth.. guess that is why unity is so fleeting.

Happy Sunday Bill

Bilbo said...

Hi Bob,

I'm sending your quote to master Gandalf for translation...I share your sentiments about pride,humility, and our desire to project our version of truth onto others. At this stage of my life I am not particularly bothered when people speak passionately and with certainty about what they believe...but...when they add what I consider to be "manipulative" scorched earth tactics to their repertoire than my feathers get all ruffled and I generally tune them out...