Knowledge, rational intelligence, and everything associated with knowing, are considered to be some of the most valuable assets for a majority of people in the world today. Pursuing knowledge, gathering “useful” information, and researching, inventing, and developing “logical” theories based on such information are some of the most well-paid activities on Earth.
But why is this so?
The Desire To Know
Knowledge has a lot of meanings, but one common theme with knowledge is a sense of certainty. Once you genuinely feel that you know something, there is a strong feeling of assurance that comes along with this knowledge. And these feelings of certainty and assurance are the key drivers in the pursuit of knowledge.
Why? Because the knowing and accompanying feeling of certainty appears to nullify a core fear of uncertainty. Once we get acquainted with this equation – knowledge nullifies the fear of uncertainty, we tend to make another leap: knowledge nullifies uncertainty. We enter a belief system that knowledge itself can reduce uncertainty. And this fallacious belief has become the cornerstone, the foundation of a large number of systems and pursuits of knowledge that exist in the world today.
But does it really work that way?
One of the primary qualities of scientists and people in the scientific community is skepticism. People in this community even pride themselves on their level of skepticism, and can even have an unbelievable air of arrogance that is purely based on the skeptical attitude. They truly believe that being skeptical is better than being a believer. And there may be something to it, but not so much after all. Here is why…
Knowledge can be seen as being subjective or objective. Subjective knowledge is based on perception and objective knowledge is believed to be that which stands beyond subjectivity. As far as can be told, and based on many opinions from many an “intelligent folk”, we cannot perceive objective knowledge. Simply because perception is subjective.
A fundamental aspect of knowing something that is expressed in words, is that the knowledge has been expressed in words that are a creation of subjective beings. The words are used as metaphors for understanding a concept that has been experienced or witnessed by another person. So not only is the experience subject to the personal biases of the person who witnessed or experienced a phenomenon, it is also subject to the limits of the language and our interpretations of this language.
Don’t feel too lost yet… there is a reason for going down this path.
Scientists are skeptical because they have seen countless people coming up with theories. Theories that the theoretician believed to be completely valid, true, and real, but were later disproved by another fellow with nothing better to do. Seeing how easy it was for people to create and believe in highly erratic theories, skepticism became one of the valued qualities of a “good scientist”. But skepticism and criticism is not limited to scientists, it is a quality that belongs to the scientist that lives within each of us. Each one of us has been trained to develop this quality from an early age. Some people may have a more discerning eye depending on the effort the put into training this ability, but each of us has the capability to be skeptical.
The result is that mostly everything in science is now based on theories that cannot be proven but have been through the skeptical scrutiny of every scientist that laid eyes on that theory. If most or all the scientists and critics were unable to find something wrong with the theory, it gets accepted and becomes a foundational element of all science that proceeds from it. The longer a theory withstands the scrutiny of scientists that are constantly gathering new information, the more it is believed to be real. Take “The Big Bang Theory” as an example. This theory is no longer just a theory for most people on this planet, it is a “factual reality”. Based on a bunch of other theories that could not ever be proven, other than being subject to repeated tests that return the same result, a theory about the origin of the universe is now considered a fundamental fact that governs the reality of perhaps a majority of the world today.
What is the problem here?
The basic problem of everything that has been explained up until this point, is the lack of “self-knowledge” of each person that participates in the formation and criticism of theories. What is the significance of self-knowledge in a field of objective evaluation such as science? The answer is right in the question – in the form of another question – how can any objective evaluation take place without knowing the full extent of subjective biases that exist within a person?
If our perception is biased by our unconscious needs and wants, we cannot know the extent to which the knowledge gained has been colored by these unconscious biases. In which case, even calling it knowledge might be a dangerous premise. It may be reduced to something as trivial as a belief – and beliefs are trivial, because there really is no limitation to what a person can believe. This can be seen by the diversity of beliefs that exist in the world today. The beliefs are so contradictory and paradoxical, that if it were possible to analyze all beliefs with a mathematical function, by attributing a positive and negative to pairs of opposing beliefs, perhaps the result of all beliefs will be a Big Zero.
This system of positive and negative does not really mean that one belief is better than the other. Just that one is as ridiculous as the other.
It has been shown many times, that even notable scientists are able to come up with proofs that are later disqualified by other scientists. What does this *potentially* show? If we really want something to be true, our mind comes up with a way to prove it to be true. This may sound wonderful, but there is a huge pitfall in this statement. The mind does not prove the premise by finding the truth, it does so by omitting or blinding us to anything that contradicts our desire.
Coming back to the example of the big bang theory. We begin by assuming that each of us have a deep inherent fear of the unknown and uncertain nature of reality and the universe. This fear may not be something we wish to acknowledge or confront, but there is enough evidencial research showing that uncertainty is very high on the list of fears. Even if you do not wish to acknowledge your own fear, let’s say that the rest of the world has this fear. If we are unable to confront this fear for what it is, we are unable to transcend it. If we are unable to transcend it, then either the fear will drive us crazy or we will find a way to control it.
Both outcomes are likely, though most people have learned to control this fear, so let’s go with this option. At this stage we are assuming that we control the fear of the unknown, but there is an alternate premise that we are in the illusion of controlling this fear. Perhaps it is the fear that controls us when we try to repress it. When we attempt to repress something it gets shoved into our unconscious, and as we do more research, we are coming to realize that the unconscious has far more control over life and reality than we can even dare to acknowledge. If this fear of uncertainty lives in our unconscious, then in order to avoid going crazy, we are going to find ways to compensate for this fear.
We may not find a compensation solution immediately, but while doing other things in the course of living life, we start seeing that small amounts of knowledge give us a feeling of certainty. And as this feeling grows, we start making an association that knowledge can kill uncertainty. Here comes the “bandage” over reality. The moment our conscious or unconscious mind has learned the illusion of certainty can act as a way to compensate for the fear of uncertainty, it is going to use all it’s power to find ways to balance the core fear.
Our core fear is the unknown and uncertain nature of the origin of life and who we are. This fundamental aspect of reality has driven people to do crazy and wonderful things. Our core fear doesn’t show up in circumstances when we are happy and blissful and disconnected from our feelings. But the moment anything appears that features even the smallest amount of uncertainty, we are triggered to call all our resources to find ways to limit and control the situation. Our need to control originates from this fundamental fear. If we are unable to control the present uncertain event, what is to say we will not be forced to confront our original fear of uncertainty?
This is the nature of reality as it is experienced by most people. If we internally investigate our lives under this assumption, we may find answers to the high levels of stress, anxiety, depression, and other health disorders that an unbelievable number of people are experiencing today. The lack of understanding this core fear may be what leads us to choose the radically imbalanced way of life we experience today.
The Ultimate Defense Of Skepticism
This can explain why origin stories and theories such as the big bang theory have such a high value. It can also explain why there is not enough incentive to disprove or disqualify such theories. Although, it can be seen as a miracle how quickly this changes. As soon as there is another story or theory that makes us feel more comfortable, the skeptic within jumps out faster than light to find all the ways in which the previous theory was complete nonsense and dogma that was used to manipulate the minds of the people.
Our belief systems train us to be skeptical of everything that doesn’t belong to our belief system. so our skepticism is not real skepticism, it is interlaced with denial of reality for keeping our comfort zone alive
Conspiracies are no better than the theories they are attempting to disprove, because in most if not all cases, the conspiracy suggests an equally ridiculous theory. The core underlying all theories is uncertainty, and until this fear is confronted there is no possibility to witness reality without this filter. Each theory is the foundation of a new belief system or religion, and proponents of the theory will do everything in their power to maintain the belief system, and opponents will do everything to destroy it. Simply because it contradicts their theory.
People use their highly-trained skills of criticism in conjunction with fear-based compensation mechanisms to come up with absolutely bizarre explanations to ridicule and deride belief systems that threaten or contradict their own system in any way. On the other hand, people’s creativity gets infused with this fear of uncertainty and results in the production of grand theories about everything and nothing.
Skepticism becomes a wall blocking access to real knowledge because it is based on defending the insecurities of the skeptic.
Skepticism and creativity, when contaminated with the fear of uncertainty, becomes one of the biggest obstacles to our growth. Because we start using skepticism to block out any information that threatens to expose or confront our fear of uncertainty. Skepticism becomes the wall of the prison which prevents us from accessing real objective knowledge. Simultaneously, our creativity gets limited to producing circumstances and things that keep confirming our fears and compensation mechanisms.
This contaminated skepticism has several drawbacks. It closes us off to gaining real knowledge that maybe available but is impossible to consider because it threatens other knowledge that we are holding on to balance our fears. This kind of skepticism also makes us susceptible to believing things that may seem good or helpful in the moment, but tend to be detrimental to our overall growth. It disrupts our judgement and healthy skepticism that protects us from making choices that are not aligned with our essential nature.
The Way Out
All hope is not lost in the battle of good vs evil, right vs wrong, mine vs yours.
God may be found in the light of heaven…
The Devil may be found in the darkness of hell…
But it is quite unlikely that Reality will be found in either of those places…
Fear based motivations draw us towards polarities such as good and evil, right and wrong. We become righteous believing that our way is better than others. This righteousness arises from nothing other than the value we place in our beliefs. And without even realizing, our beliefs keep changing, not just over time, but even from one moment to another we can have very contradicting beliefs. We simply don’t realize, analyze or pay enough attention to our thoughts and beliefs to recognize how much we may be contradicting ourselves. I will talk about this more when I come to the topic of sub-personalities, but the essential idea is that we have many different beliefs, each belonging to a different part of us, and these parts are unaware of each other and oftentimes contradict each other. This can be the basis of a lot of fights and disagreements we have because many times we don’t realize our hypocrisy.
To understand polarities arising from the fear of uncertainty and see how we can overcome this bias, we are going to refer to one of my favorite tools – The Enneagram. It is an ancient sacred symbol that features in numerous spiritual and religious systems, but it is a symbol that also exists beyond these contexts. It was brought to the modern world by a genius by the name of Gurdjieff in the early years of the 20th century.
The symbol is a circle with nine points that represent three laws that are said to be fundamental to existence and processes in the universe — The Law of One, The Law of Three and The Law of Seven. These cosmic laws don’t necessarily explain the origin of the universe but they do provide interesting descriptions of the interaction of systems and flow of processes. We are going to be talking about the Law of Three to find the way out.
The law of three is depicted by the triangle in the enneagram which connects the points 3, 6, 9. The 3, 6, 9 or law of three is commonly known as the trinity. This law in the enneagram talks about three fundamental natural forces in the universe: the affirming or positive force, the opposing or negating force, and the reconciling or neutralizing force. When seen in the context of the trinity, our theories, skepticism, and fears can be seen much clearer for what they really are.
Unconsciously, we keep using the law of three to balance our fear of uncertainty. If we see our fear as the negating force, we bring our creative ability to provide a theory that acts as an affirming force. And somewhere in between we come to a compromise and reconcile to an illusion of reality. As we move forward, any threat or opposing belief takes the role of the negating force, we automatically polarize to the opposing affirming force, and somewhere in between the balance appears as the neutralizing force. In this context, we can see that we are never really free as long as we have this fear. It is not we who have this fear under control, but we are under complete control of this fear.
The way out is in acknowledging this fear, accepting it for what it is, learning to get comfortable with it, and thus becoming the neutralizing force. The enneagram has been beautifully extended to a system of personality types. In here, each point on the enneagram has been ascribed certain qualities. Each point is a personality type that borrows qualities from the other types based on the connections within the diagram. This is not to say we are limited to one personality type, we have all points of the enneagram, but in certain situations and at our baseline, we have a proclivity to act as a certain type to a certain degree.
The 3, 6, 9 in the enneagram are the labeled the achiever, the loyalist, and the peacemaker respectively. Of these, the 3 and 6 are attributed with either the affirming or negating force, they can be interchangeable, and the 9 is attributed with the neutralizing force and so it has the label of the peacemaker. This does not mean that the 9 is not polarized. Type 9s can be highly polarized in their unhealthy states. But when they develop themselves and are functioning in healthy states, they tend to be the neutralizing force in the situation.
As mentioned before, we all have every personality type to some degree within us. And this is the key we will be using to break out of the polarization created by our fear of uncertainty. It is by cultivating the 9, the peacemaker within ourselves that we can learn to be at peace with uncertainty, and with ourselves. In this state, we no longer need theories and beliefs to keep us sane or calm. We reach a natural state of balance that transcends the fear of uncertainty. At this stage, we can learn to be excited and appreciate the beautiful, surprising and mystical nature of reality and the universe. This is not a state reserved exclusively for the highly mystical and elitist spiritualists, this is a natural state that can be accessed by anyone who is willing to take the journey into the unknown. I am not saying it will be easy or difficult, it will be a journey that is dynamically guided by your attitude and responds in the most curious ways when you change your beliefs.
This state can be described as a calm blissfulness, a genuine feeling of peace even knowing that you don’t actually know most of what you consider important to know. There is a feeling of deep relaxation in knowing that there is a class of knowledge or information called the “unknowable” — that which cannot be known by anyone in anyway. We can come to terms with the fact that the unknown and the unknowable are not our enemies, rather they are just states of consciousness. Once we are fully aware of this, we can learn to tune our consciousness to work harmoniously with the unknown and unknowable. We can finally rest and let go the desire to control every situation and every person we encounter, and let the mystery keep on spinning…