Intellectual Information vs. Real Knowledge
When seekers start out their spiritual journey, many have a tendency to read a lot of books on the subject, which is quite normal, because we want to learn as much as possible about this new field of life in which we have so much interest. Eventually, as we gain more understanding about the nature of the spiritual work, we are ought to realize that there is a huge difference between that which we read, which is theory, from that which we experience directly.
Even though that what we read may sound convincing, or is aligned to our beliefs, or is coming from someone that we respect, it is essential to understand that this is not real knowledge, but rather it is an intellectual information, and even though it may be truthful and related to that which is real, for us is simply something that we may accept or reject, until that which we read becomes a direct knowledge for us as well.
In case of a system of spiritual teaching, we don’t have much choice but to go with what resonates with us and apply the techniques based on intuition, or faith that we have, a faith that is based on previous experience, rather than a blind belief. In that way, if the teachings we aim to practice are practical, will give us results and the theory will become an experience. But in the case of information that we read about more esoteric things, which is not so easy to verify, this on the other hand requires more patience and time to look into, to see if it is real or not.
There are many authors that write books on spiritual subjects that are based on their own view of life, that is often time shaped by various information from different traditions, or shaped by reading various material about it. In their books they present such information as truthful, even though in most cases it is something that simply resonates with them. Now, there could be some truth in such beliefs as well, but it is important to distinguish that which is reality from that which is opinion or belief.
Real knowledge is something that is tangible; it cannot be replaced by hundreds of hours of reading books, because it is the experience of the subject that we want to know about. For example, when we want to know more about what is taking place when we sleep, or what are dreams, then we should apply effort to remember our dreams, and perhaps even to become conscious in them, and in that way we start having experiences about the dream world and our particular dream life. Once we arrive to that point, then we are in the know about such subject, we no longer have to rely on what we have read about it. Of course, we can always go deeper into our investigation and discover even more.
It is tempting to allow the mind to store the intellectual information in the “verified knowledge” compartment of the mind, which is when we present to other people that which we read as something that we actually know. Allowing the mind to do that would get us in trouble as we continue doing this over the course of time, because we create illusion that the belief we have is an actual knowledge, just because what we read resonates with us and the way we perceive things.
It is necessary to question information that we are apt to accept as real. It can be very beneficial to investigate or reflect on what has shaped us so that one thing resonates with us, and another thing doesn’t, to trace this back to when we started accepting things from one spiritual tradition or from one teacher, while being skeptical and rejecting others. Such investigation is possible to do with an honest and sincere retrospection.
Theory is essential, because we need to understand the theory first in order to practice it, but it is important to eventually take that step from theoretical to practical, from reading to practicing, from believing to verifying, from accepting to questioning. As we do that, we will start arriving to experiences, which is very important to have if we wish to go deeper with spirituality, rather than only having it on the intellectual level.
HDP, April 2020.