Knowing, in the Taoist sense of the word, is not knowledge, per se. As chapter 15 puts it, Of old, the adept student was minutely subtle, open and deep beyond knowledge. As chapter 56 notes, Knowing doesn’t speak; speaking doesn’t know. Times are different now. Our modern electrified pace of life is continuously updating every facet of human knowledge. However, this is not the case with knowing as contrasted from knowledge.
It’s All Gossip
Knowledge is a worldly outward knowing… ‘gossip’ if you will. Conversely, inner knowing, profound sameness as chapter 56 puts it, is realizing the broad context of your life, down to the existential bottom line. I suppose it seems a little severe to pigeonhole all factual knowledge as ‘gossip’. However, I’m contrasting chapter 1’s the name possible to express with the constant not possible to express. The former spirals upward and outward, the latter spirals downward and inward and returns to the “heights” that chapter 17 hints at, The greatest heights exist below what we realize,
Considering Buddha’s Four Noble Truths as an inward spiraling feedback process is helpful. The full meaning of the Fourth Truth, ‘Whose self disappears before truth’ will deepen as you contemplate the preceding three truths on the illusion of self and suffering over your lifetime. We must experience the self enough to see its limits, and nothing ‘highlights’ the self and its limits more than the suffering its “I” experiences. Suffering is the grist that grinds down “I”, the illusion of self, and returns us to our essence. As chapter 21 puts it …
Our deep need to feel this essence has been with us for many millennia as evidenced by that passage from chapter 21. However, I have to wonder how the turbulence caused by the information age influences this quest. When life moves along at light speed, we can’t help but fail to notice the scenery along the way. What’s more, technological cultures place much more emphasis on facts — knowledge — than on intuition. This bias displaces our appreciation and recognition for the depth of character and wisdom that experience brings.
In a changing world that continuously updates knowledge at light speed, it is the youth and not the elders who excel at keeping abreast of it all. This was not the case in ancestral times, where knowledge changed little, making the intuitive knowing of elders more noticeable and valued. Please note: I’m not saying times were better back then! I’m just pondering the nature of the changes that are taking place as humanity takes its great quantum leap forward.
“You’ll Never Catch Up”
During my time studying yoga in India, my teacher B.K.S. Iyengar told me candidly, “Carl, you’ll never catch up with me”. I’ve always remembered that because it puzzled me somewhat. In the first place, I didn’t feel I was competing with him at the time; I’m not a competitive person. On the other hand, I was certainly more oblivious then. I understood more than I actually knew; it has taken time for knowing to catch up to understanding. (See I understand but do I know and We only understand what we already know)
In the last few years, his comment finally began to make sense. Age and experience factors alone mean you can never catch up with those born before you. It is not about what we know, it is about depth, and only time deepens this humble position relative to where you began at birth! As chapter 61describes it, Using stillness she supports the lower position. This all-important experience factor is about how long you’ve traveled, not where you’ve been. This is the major reason wisdom cannot be passed on to the younger generation; they must ‘earn it to learn it’. Just ask Duke Huan’s wheelwright.
The bad news is that the knowing clock resets itself with each generation. Yet, the good news is that the knowing clock resets itself with each generation. How else could Mother Nature maintain balance?
Some Highlights of Taoist Knowing
- Without going out the door we can know all under heaven.
Without looking out the window we can see Nature’s way. (#47)
- All the multitude explain with their knowledge; (#49)
- Knowing doesn’t speak; speaking doesn’t know. (#56)
- Knowing self is rare, following self is noble. (#70)
- Knowing isn’t wealth; Wealth doesn’t know. (#81)