Ignorance and Knowing

Teachers want to have answers, but some things cannot be known. Not because they are secret but because the decisions which affect the answer have not yet been made.

Imagine driving a highway you know you turn left to get to the destination. You ignore all turnings on the right. But what if you turn left too soon. You have to wait to arrive at the correct turning – if you wish to reach your destination.

This problem does not beset teachers alone. All of us experience this at some point in our lives. We are asked something for which we have no answer. Such is the educational system in this country, and other nations of the West I suspect, that to be without an answer is seen as a failure. We are taught from junior schools to have a ready answer. To answer smartly and correctly. We are bred in competition to declare the correct response. ‘Oh miss, miss. I know.’ hands clawing at the air. If we answer wrongly we are made the butt of ridicule of the classroom. There is no room for alternative answers. There is no place for the individual in such a teaching pattern. It is a legacy of the imperial age of Newtonian physics and empirical knowledge, where there was only one answer and it fit every occasion. Profit is the only way forward, cries the Protestant work ethic that maximises production in a linear fashion, for ‘the Devil makes work for idle hands’. But look at the mess that got us into.

In the Middle Ages a blissful treatise on Christian contemplation was titled the Cloud of Unknowing, in which the author explores the condition of not knowing, as distinct from being ignorant.

Nor is this quandary restricted to teachers. Every expert, whether that is a doctor or a scientist, is expected to be able to give the definitive answer. ‘Will Putin use nuclear weapons?’ the only correct response to this question is ‘Let’s wait and see’. Not ‘Yes! Justify, justify, justify.’ or ‘No! Justify, justify, justify.’

To be able to say ‘I don’t know’ is seen as a weakness in our black and white society. For me, to whom honesty was always more important than any rote answer, it was never a weakness. It was nothing more than an honest response. Often because my mind was so frozen by the power of interrogation with which the questioner awaited my reply. I am left-handed and we live in a right -handed world. This means that those successful right-handed people approach the world with a gungho all or nothing approach, blasting everything before them as they make their way through the world. Impacting my weak eye, the right one, they freeze my mind and I retreat. I have to wait, often even days, to know what my response to a situation or question might be. Was that a good film? Do you like my dress? Does my new hairstyle appeal? How can I possibly answer when the question is being asked on so many levels.

Yes the film was ethical, it had some exciting sequences, the colour was most impressive. Are you the same person now you have cut all your hair off and wear it in a bob?

So too with the psychic investigator and ‘channel’. God is all-knowing, right? And that must mean that He/She has all the answers to any question at all. How can you, as an acclaimed channel for the Godhead, not know the answer?

But this is a misinterpretation of the phrase ‘all-knowing’. It is one thing to be aware of all that is happening, and quite another to have a ready response, or ‘know the correct answer’, to every abstruse question a devious mind might speculate upon.

Some questions cannot be answered because the moment has not arrived for that question to hold a true response. Consider the Second Coming of the Christ. What if it is not certain that chosen one will remain in their current body or has not even yet taken incarnation?

This is where the driving analogy comes into its own. We know the destination lies to our left and so must make a left-hand turn off the highway at some point. But there is no point taking a left hand turn before we reach the proper junction. We will become profoundly lost. And this is what has happened with science today. So many voices clamouring to be heard and to make a living for themselves to pursue their favoured research, and so few funding sources available. Each attempts to provide an answer which appears to be justified and timely. Yet so few are.

Science, comes the defensive cry, is founded on observation. But this is simply not true. It is founded on speculation and invention. Experiments are created to justify a theory, not because of an observation but because some cloistered figure sitting alone in his or her study, has come up with ‘a good idea’ and wants to demonstrate this good idea works. But to do that they need funds to cover the costs of an experiment, or multiple experiments, to demonstrate the validity of a chance thought on a stranded afternoon in halls.

Today countless games of chance abound in the market place of oracles. The animal oracle, the tree oracle, the ascended masters and archangel oracle and on and on. They are founded on the ancient oracles of rune stones and Tarot cards, but unlike these ancient forms they are not tested over generations to hold any validity. They are not the product of a school of divination, or contemplative study of personal nature and coincidence in the world about us. Today they are seen as a quick way to make money. ‘People will buy anything’. So it is. But what is the result of such an approach to life? What is the outcome? Material wealth and ill-health due to uninhibited indulgence of the appetites.

Honesty, to be true to oneself, is a far better course to take. After all God is the Good, the True and the Beautiful. But today those words themselves are so devalued in their meaning when good is ‘sickly sweet and salted caramel’, true means ‘in your opinion’, and beautiful means ‘curvaceous and colourful’. Dazzled by the world the young grow hungry for something more substantial.

Try to give it from an opened heart, and wait for the right turning.

Author: Keith Armstrong

Dance teacher, writer, film-maker, educationalist, enthusiast.