Wednesday, March 14, 2007

DISCARDING “KNOWLEDGE” WHEN IT IS ACTUALLY LEARNED IGNORANCE, Part One

From a site visitor: I’m totally westernized--gulity as charged--so I’ve been trained to give great value to knowledge, which you’ve been knocking. I’m at least willing to listen to you and see if I can get your point, but looking at your bio info, you obviously attended university, acquired enough knowledge to convince someone that they should pay you to use that knowledge, and then paid your bills through use of that knowledge. Your vast knowledge in many subject areas is obvious. So, what’s the deal? Larry

F.: Hello Larry. First, the fact that you are “totally westernized” might preempt any chance of your “getting the point,” especially since the content of your e-mail reveals that you have bought into the very essence of the core belief that most westerners hold about work: you only do it to get something, to gain something, to accumulate, or to get a payoff. (All of the “No, I love my job” stuff ends when your pay ends. As for volunteer workers or “the Personality Type Two Helper,” search the site to see what their true motives are.)

You will see, if you read on and consider objectively, that the western knowledge/beliefs about work have evolved from, and then been merged with, ancient mideastern knowledge/beliefs about religion and spirituality. That blending of knowledge/beliefs about work and knowledge/beliefs about god/gods has resulted in the learned ignorance that now dominates the persons of the planet. In fact, it could be argued that such knowledge is far more dangerous (relatively speaking) than all other types of ignorance combined. It is that category of knowledge (which is not knowledge at all but is actually learned ignorance) that the Advaita teachings invite persons to discard in order that they might be able to see reality (and thereby be in touch with reality, that is, be sane). As it is now, that merging has resulted in a near-planetwide belief in a god or gods who will reward you if you do religious or spiritual work and who will punish you if you do not do that special work.

The invitation for now is to see this: western and/or Judaeo-Christian and/or Anglo-Saxon values are rooted in the ancient “knowledge” passed down from pagans. The Jews accepted that knowledge as their own and taught that those among them who were wealthy and who had healthy children were “good” (and being rewarded by a god) and that those who were poor or had unhealthy or stillborn children were “bad” (and thus beinging punished). Later, the puritannical elements among Christians would accept such “knowledge” as fact, and most today are trapped in the knowledge that they think they have regarding the interrelation of “good vs. bad,” “reward vs. punishment,” and their religious/spiritual knowledge and work as well. It is that type of “knowledge” (learned ignorance) that Advaita invites persons to discard.

That the Judaeo-Anglo work ethic became enmeshed with the so-called religious and spiritual knowledge/beliefs among persons is no surprise. The notion that there is always a payoff for any work you do (be it physical, spiritual, religious, or communal) is the “come-on” that has been used by medicine men and priests and religious men and spiritual men for as long as they have been playing their self-appointed roles: “Do this work that we tell you to do—and do it with knowledge of the 'right' way that we teach you to do it—and there will be a reward, a payoff, both now and later.”

How convincing were the ancient “holy” men? They were so convincing that early priests convinced parents to sacrifice their virginal daughters to please an angry god. As “God’s representative on earth,” the priests had sex with the daughters (in a symbolic act of oneness, they claimed) and then cut out their hearts and passed them through the crowd in order that all might commune with god. The people had been given this knowledge and accepted it as fact: that gathering to participate regularly in "communion" to drink the blood and to eat the body would please an angry god (such as the rain god) and that a payoff would follow. And if the blessing of rain did not come and “save” the crops? More "sacrifice" was obviously wanted by the god. Kill a few more virgins.

How convincing are the modern “holy” men as they continue to transmit the ancient knowledge and myths and superstitions and beliefs and practices? So convincing that nowadays two billion people pass on this same knowledge to their children who now believe that they will be closer to god and will be making him happy and will thereby be rewarded and blessed both now and forevermore if they will perform that same cannabilism-vampirism routine regularly. So convincing that two billion more will use spikes and maces to beat themselves regularly and bring forth the blood in order to please their god.
Are you seeing the points about “knowledge” and “learned ignorance”?
1. Far less of such knowledge, rather than far more knowledge, is called for.
2. To learn a skill that will pay your bills is one thing. Even to be “proud” of that knowledge is just another bit of arrogance based in the adoption of a persona (i.e., “The Super Teacher,” “The Super Protégé,” “The Super Student,” “The Religious Expert,” "The Super Ascetic," etc.)
3. Infatuation with your "vast store of knowledge" will delay being free of all learned ignorance.
4. Infatuation with accumulating more will retard your de-accumulating and being free of what you already have too much of.
5. To learn ignorance is another thing still, and it is that which persons are invited to cast aside.

But with a “westernized mindset” (becoming popular in the Far East as well nowadays) little about Advaita will sound appealing to you since you will be told, “Do this ‘work’ and you will gain nothing but will lose everything instead!” That very notion will likely be anathema to your “western mind”; however, since you claim that you are “at least willing to listen and see if you can get the point,” a pause will happen in order to provide an occasion for consideration. Please enter the silence of contemplation. [To be continued tomorrow]