Many questions still to be answered in our world. Maybe we are truly the Fallen Angels?? Great Post Thanks Tom for this.
What Do You (Think You) Really Know?
On the need for maintaining a curious spirit.
“When in doubt observe and ask questions. When certain, observe at length and ask many more questions.” — George Patton
Once again, I thought I would follow up on Joe Martino’s recent discussion of huge gaps and worse in many peoples’ understanding. This is such an important point first made by Socrates: You don’t know what you don’t know.
Joe mentioned the Dunning-Kruger effect in which people with relatively little knowledge will overestimate what they in fact know. Joe’s piece used the example of brand influencers who tend to become very sure of their pronouncements because, of course, they had a vested interest in it.
This speaks to the conditioning that takes place in corporate environments, similar to how an individual accumulates a self or Ego.
One thing that happens with people who are sure of themselves is that they frequently break off mentally and become separate from any sense of Wholeness (to defend their position). This crystallizes the ego which then, with many insecure people, and hardens with each challenge – something we can see in our current politics.
It’s also obvious that whatever we think we know is generally another thought. The exception is if it is a bodily sensation or emotion which is purely felt, without interpretation.
Unfortunately, most people are also heavily invested in feeling good – or avoiding any discomfort – and the discipline of sensing emotions in the body and allowing them to be experienced without judgement is quite foreign. I say it’s unfortunate because in my recent experience, it is the one way to begin to heal trauma stored in the body.
And speaking of the body, this is where we can surely go even a step further.
We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know that We Don’t Know
Things get even more complicated when you focus on the real mystery. The vastness of the gaps is staggering.
An example of this is qualia – defined as “the internal and subjective component of sense perceptions, arising from stimulation of the senses by phenomena.”
What this really comes down to is our Experience, which is somehow created out of our Awareness of whatever is happening. But qualia for humans is more subtle and indefinable – scientists have been unable to explain, for example, why some wine tastes dry and another fruity.
How does the subjective part – the judgment – come into (our?) awareness.
Neuroscience now can identify and label the various components of the experience in terms of physics and biochemistry, but they cannot explain how “we” experience things like awe, gratitude and so on.
And for the sense of “someone” experiencing any phenomena they can only give it another label: Consciousness.
When trying to define “ourselves” or the experience of being, our language has proven so inadequate (partly due to the subject/object grammatical bias of English and most modern languages) that to the extent any speculations or theories are wrong – we probably don’t even have the capability to comprehend what makes them so incomplete.
Attempts to pin the experience of the self down scientifically have fallen short, as I described in “AI and the Hard Problem of Consciousness”.
Where is the Ground of Our Experience?
This conundrum exists because science deals with facts and certainty and our experience actually seems to arise in a space other than that which science can adequately define.
But still, we are deeply conditioned to believe that our experiences and thoughts about what has, may or is happening comprise a separate self or identity, that is often surmised to exist in the brain.
But recent neurological advances have failed to locate any physical or even biochemical basis for a separate self.
If we return once again to the body, we can also see that all of our senses, and even thoughts, can be reduced to a biochemical reaction. We can now view it as information passing from the receptor to the brain, gut or heart.
Since this information is based on very specific individual parameters, the results are almost by definition finite and fallible. What we experience is by no means a universally known phenomenon. We generally experience what we’ve been conditioned to experience, which separates us from other humans, and for that matter from all other life forms.
Birds can see better than we can, whales, dolphins and bats live on sound and most animals can hear things humans can’t. If you have a cat you know that its world is nothing like yours.
And now, even when humans have invented incredible instruments to augment our senses and allow a glimpse even into vast apparent distances away from our planet out into the cosmos, we are confronted more and more with phenomena that we cannot explain.
(I wrote “apparent distances” because our view of “outer” space is always, inevitably a subjective experience that seems to create an image within “us” – presumably within our brains from a signal through the optic nerve. I often suspect that even the way we perceive “outer space” is a function of our limited sensory and intellectual capacities).
The irony is that it is Science that now points most effectively to what we don’t even know that we don’t know, and yet it is the same science that is the cause of so much human hubris and delusion.
Before Quantum Mechanics was discovered and Einstein’s theories verified we didn’t know that we had no clue about matter and energy. Because a lot in the quantum world doesn’t make “sense” there are presumably more vast areas where we can’t even comprehend our own ignorance.
I dealt with some of these issues when I wrote about Robert Lanza’s theory of Biocentrism. Science seems to be dragged kicking and screaming into a new paradigm where the self we believe in doesn’t really exist – and what WE ARE (not what we have or do) is aligned intimately with Nature, or our environment, or whatever label one might want to use in what is really an infinitely sacred Mystery.
The Limitations of Current Scientific Labels
Another example would be biology where for centuries all life was thought of as either animal or plant. Then they found microbes, and eventually viral agents and the line between life and the “objective” world blurred.
Returning our attention to qualia, and consciousness, again these personal “events” are defined as subjective experiences.
Science can’t really explain subjectivity. As previously noted, that may well be because explanations involve a subject and an object (as conditioned by our language and grammar) but what if everything is just an arising in Consciousness (subjectivity)?
If we take the concept of “Wholeness” literally – there cannot in fact be anyone outside of the whole to have a subjective experience.
This is the essence of “Nonduality” – a modern popular philosophical movement.
Our interpreted experience is comprised of thoughts, words and feelings. But where do these occur?
The body and the brain are the short answers, the ones the DKE people would grab hold on, but upon deeper examination “your” experience of your hands, for example, takes place visually and tactilely; you can both see your hands and feel them. But how is that happening and by whom?
But what makes them “yours”? What is it that differentiates “you” from everything else you see or feel?
If you think about it, a separate “identity” was not originally within awareness when your body was first born. It started when someone told you ‘your’ name.
And ever since the narrative of a separate person, made up mainly of thoughts and memories has accumulated more knowledge based on that one erroneous assumption of separation, culminating in an illusory experience of “you.”
How do we make the bulk of humanity aware of this delusion? I wonder if it is not central to the issue of what we now may become “Disclosure” where our psychological world seems poised to explode in ways we cannot know that we do not know. And as the 70’s comedy team called Firesign Theater once said: “Everything you know is wrong.”
I would think that under the circumstances the most appropriate position to take in many instances is what Eckhart Tolle recommends – deep acceptance of not knowing.
Moreover, in the face of such overwhelming evidence of our ignorance, we might be better advised to ask very deep questions – and as Joe Martino has also mentioned, allowing silent sensing to bring us a response (perhaps not even answer) that could even bring up physical emotions or sensations, but no actual conclusion.
I tried to use that technique in the book I wrote recently “Conversations with Nobody” written with AI, about AI and giving a taste of AI.
Because the format of the book was an apparent “conversation” with a nonhuman intelligence the questions I posed (or prompts) were actually the only creative element in the book – and were designed to either take the AI’s response and follow up with more depth, or pose a question that had some nuance and would make the reader think about an issue like the one in this article.
Of course the potential promise of AI is to provide impersonal and presumably more factual information than a mere human; but so far that promise is unfulfilled.
The AI generally gave answers perfectly in line with the most obvious human biases – not surprising in that its “answers” were simply guesses as to next appropriate word in the response, based on its programming as a “language” model. No actual human thought was involved in the response.
But the openness of the question may evoke an appropriate feeling in one who considers it silently. It may even take one beyond one’s mind. Questions to ponder and go beyond the conditioned limitations of Dunning-Kruger:
What do we really know?
Who (or what) are we?
What is our relationship to reality – what was here before we got here and thought about it.