Is it sensible to ask oneself ‘How do I know what I know?’ We gather knowledge all the time, almost unconsciously; and we receive training overtly. Sometimes, we may find, to our surprise, that we know something that we did know we knew. The path of learning seems clear; but the path of remembering can be unclear, even confusing.
There is a belief that there is something called collective knowing. There is another belief that there is a collective unconscious which also involves knowledge. Both would need to be of considerable significance to mankind, perhaps in terms only of survival. Where the ethos of one’s society is individualism, as against an ethos of communalism, what are the chances of being aware of a collective knowledge? Whereas, the collective unconscious may impact on an individual in unpredictable ways.
With parents encouraging their child at an early age to enquire about anything of interest, a child could ask that crucial question – one which must have intrigued philosophers in all societies – ‘How do I know what I know?’ Could this child, perhaps at a later stage of development, also ask ‘How do I know what I do not know?’
The following extracts from ‘Musings at death’s door’ seem relevant.
“Our hold on this molten rock is indeed precarious, without a ‘night of Brahma’ or a ‘Big Crunch’ being involved.
In any event, it would be wise to accept that, no matter how clever we are, the Cosmos owes us nothing. As we make slow progress on our trajectory towards that Ocean of Consciousness, we might have to repeatedly earn our place in the Cosmos!
The issue of the structure, shape, and substance of human bodies raises a challenging question. Should we concede that life forms occupying other planets in the universe that we are aware of are equivalent to modern man on Earth? Should we not see these extra-terrestrials as co-created with us? Are we then bonded to these although we have not met them as yet? Or, are some of them already with us? Could they be the wise men and women amongst us who have sought to guide us to a moral life?
All the above references to the Cosmos may apply only to the universe we know. Are there other universes? But, what can one say about anything one doesn’t even know exists? That is the problem of knowledge. It is difficult enough to understand the nature of knowledge, and how one knows what one knows, a problem I have had since my boyhood. How then does one know what one does not know?
The Hindus advise deep on-going meditation which may result in a revelation about the nature and meaning of Reality. That would be beyond words. Those who thus come to know obviously cannot tell the rest of us. As a nineteenth century Hindu philosopher stated, those who know cannot tell. It follows that those who claim to be able to tell do not know! Should my ponderings therefore be restricted to what seems knowable?
In that case, while I await the privilege of revelation, I can continue to wonder at the beauty of the visible Cosmos, to speculate on the mystery of it all, and to rejoice that there seems to be meaning in our place in it. Our souls may indeed survive recurring catastrophes on Earth, in order to reach our ultimate destination, that Ocean of Consciousness.”