From knowledge to mental liberation, stage 7
When it looks like we know nothing
The most significant step for personal progress is to acknowledge that we know nothing (nothing substantial). To discover that we don’t know is the flash of intelligence that prepares us to welcome all that is new and unknown with modesty. On the contrary, to be satisfied with what we know is the anteroom of intellectual sleep. The people who don’t feel curious for the new and different, or don’t feel inside them the drive towards harmony and beauty, think that to perfect themselves is a chore that they can’t face.
We know that intellectual harmony doesn’t preclude the emotional one; they both contain the seeds of spiritual harmony. To achieve harmony is very hard. If we don’t aim to the top, though, the drive to progress will die out sooner or later; the conscience will fall asleep and the mind will not go beyond its interests. Therefore the best way not to stop is to ‘stare at the top’.
Unfortunately we are surrounded by deceitful obstacles. Some of them are so common that can be resumed in the statement «they all do that!» . This excuse doesn’t cover for our indolence, though. The most common fault is ideological conformism which originates from the fear to be judged different and rejected.
To adapt to the common feeling, though, makes it difficult to distinguish the quality of what we use to nourish the intellect. The main anti-scientific streams originated from ideological conformism, so that those keen on knowledge have started searching themselves for the questions to be answered. They have then originated other questions and new intellectual processes alien to scientific and religious dogmatism.
Men who want to know but know that they don’t know search themselves for questions. Their answers originate other questions, which will build new ways to improve their intellectual destiny. Intellect is not the culture of sciolism but a mental ability that, like any other function, develops with practice and is destroyed by idleness. During its growth the intellect develops several stages, or multiple graduations. An exercise that improves its development corresponds to each stage. It is not casual that places particularly suitable to intellectual action are called mental gymnasiums.
A good start is to practice the intellect through classical education, to absorb musical qualities, to know the spirit of art and to read educative books.
They are only intermediate tools for knowledge, though, which involve a light form of plagiarism. Assimilating other people’s ideas leads to an artificial knowledge; we might say a forged conscience. These ideas should be replaced by direct experience and a perception of reality based on an autonomous critical sense, which can only be given by realism.
Realism is not a criterion based on opinions but on the direct knowledge of «the thing in itself» (see “Realism of the Initiatory Path”). The knowledge originated by observation is realistic; provided that we understand the objective value of what we observe, without the mediation of personal interpretations.
Knowledge and observation are the best form of teaching. The philosopher Aurobindo wrote: «…every scripture is pure means. It is not useful yet to those who don’t know the creative power of knowledge and it is not useful any more to those who have already known it. Those who practice the non-knowing walk in blind darkness; likewise those who are content of knowing only what they studied. Who achieves true knowledge throws books away as if they were on fire.»
Observation is one of the most fruitful exercises for the intellect, especially if we become able to observe ourselves with all the necessary realism. To know ourselves completely leads to understand ourselves but also other people, not in order to judge them but to understand the enigmas of the humankind.
An ancient commentary says: «…we observe inside, we observe outside and we observe above; getting in touch with the arcane reveals the arcane…». This is not a meaningless expression. It is indeed undeniable that the main instruments of Eastern and Western mysticism are contemplation and meditation, which are two different kinds of observation.
There is a more advanced method for knowledge by observation; it is visualization.
Our work is finalized to the achievement of this practice. This must be done gradually, though, because in order to reflect on alien (to the physical conscience) ideas, the mind must be able to reflect itself, namely to see what it can produce through thoughts, such as sensations, tastes, sounds and colors. In order to do this, the mind must be re-oriented by developing a particular attention that enables it to observe inside as well as outside.
By Athos A. Altomonte
In Italian «così fan tutti!», a parody of Mozart’s opera ‘Così fan tutte’.