What Does It Mean to "Know"?

Have you ever had someone ask you “how do you know?” after having shared something with them, and struggled to answer their question?  I have had this happen to me countless times.  Sometimes I would realize that I don’t really know, teaching me to be more prudent with my speech, and to re-visit the ideas I was sharing with inner reflection and development.  Other times, even though I had an inner sense of certainty around what I was sharing, I felt as though I must “not know” if I couldn’t answer “how” I know, and would regularly dismiss my knowing as not grounded, not real or not important.  What I didn’t realize was that I was also dismissing myself, and aspects of the universe that were higher than myself.

The predominant way of knowing in today’s world has been from a limited scientific viewpoint.  What is known must be proven, tested, tangible, visible, and/or grounded to be “real.”  People want to see documentation, quotes, statistics, models, demonstrations, etc.  Ultimately, they want proof.  What exactly is proof?  Webster’s list of definitions for proof includes:

  • The cogency of evidence that compels acceptance by the mind of a truth or a fact
  • Experience
  • Something that induces certainty or establishes validity
  • The quality or state of having been tested or tried

The word proof only came to be in the 13th century.  If in today’s world, we “know” by having proof, how did we know before the 13th century?

I notice that reading Webster’s definitions of proof only leads me to more questions.  Why does evidence accepted only by the mind become “true?”  What about acceptance by the emotions, the body, the heart, the soul, the spirit?  Why do we seem to primarily accept only the first and last definitions in that list (cogency of evidence and testing) as proof?  What happened to experience or other non-scientific aspects of what may induce certainty?

When we consider the spectrum of light known to modern science, it is only a tiny fraction of this spectrum that is visible to the human eye.  Imagine what we might see if our eyes could see beyond this narrow band of light!  Additionally, modern methods of testing are typically focused on the main senses such as seeing, hearing, tasting, etc.  Doesn’t that create an incredibly narrow focus for us to consider something to be true or fact?  Can we really say we know anything?

With all these questions, it seems to me that we cannot have the arrogance to say we know anything absolutely.  However, it also seems to me that given the multitudes of perspectives we as unique individuals have, there is importance in being open to the possibility of truth in each of these perspectives.  Additionally, I feel we must be open to the ways in which these perspectives are arrived at, respecting those who came to them, even if they are not according to typical scientific methods.

Imagine if we could see beyond that visible band within the spectrum of light.  What might we discover?  What if we can see, but not with our eyes?  Perhaps there are those that do, and have for some time, yet we’ve been dismissing them.  Perhaps you do, and you’ve been dismissing yourself.  What types of things do you “just know” without having an understanding for?  Have you given your knowing any credence?  Do you take the time to validate your knowing or research and understand it more deeply?

I want to clarify that I am not at all suggesting that just any or all knowing is something to be validated, or even something to be considered true.  We must ask from where and how this knowing might be coming to us.  In some ways, it is important to test, but not necessarily with limited traditional scientific methods.  We can notice within ourselves what might be indicating this knowing that we have.  Do we feel it in our heart, or another part of the body?  Does it feel flowing and open, or constricted and circular?  When did the idea come to us…when we were in a state of stillness, or in a state of chaos?  Are we attached to the idea, or can we let it go?  What emotions do we experience with this knowing?  Is there something within us that feels devoted to the idea in a deep, soul or spirit based way?

We run the risk of leaving out a tremendous amount of potentially valuable information if we are only willing to know in a limited way.  As I continue to learn how to trust my intuition more, I notice that there is a wealth of wisdom available to me that I had been ignoring.  I am also developing greater confidence in the ways in which I know things.  I feel less and less of a need to have “proof” for what I experience, and give much more credence to the experience itself.

I tend to feel a resonance with certain things that draw me to them.  Often this resonance has proven to be quite beneficial, drawing me toward deeper learning, wonderful relationships, and beautiful opportunities.  However, I have also learned the hard way that I’ve been drawn to or resonated with things that were not so good for me.  So what was drawing me to these things, and why didn’t I know they weren’t in my best interest?  This is where questioning ourselves becomes important.  What aspect of myself was resonating?  Was I listening to all aspects, or just the ones I wanted to?  Was there an agenda in resonating, such as from my lower nature?  Is resonating really a way knowing, and if so, how can I be discerning enough to find the truth in the resonance rather than be deceived by it?

I certainly don’t write this article from a place of knowing.  Quite the contrary.  I feel that I’m still learning how to know.  My intention is not to answer the question of the article’s title, but rather to simply present the question for consideration.  What I can say with confidence is that just when I do think I know, there’s something else for me to learn.  I also find that when I think I know, life begins to feel stuck on many levels.  I’ve learned that if I pay more attention to what feels right to me in a deep inner way, even if it’s contrary to what others think or would expect, I tend to be guided in directions that are more fruitful for my path of development.  There may even be a higher need for each of us to know differently for our unique soul’s evolution.  Perhaps it is similar to that voice of conscience I’ve written about in that “knowing” is unique to each of us, just as our conscience is.

I remember a friend sharing that in those contests when one has to guess the number of jelly beans in a jar or the weight of a pig at the fair and the one closest to the right answer wins, when all of the guesses are added up and averaged, the average number is exactly correct, or very close to it.  If this is the case, it’s certainly worth considering the idea that as we all pool our knowing, we have a greater chance of coming to the truth or facts, particularly if our individual knowing is coming from a place of openness, stillness, and humility.

We each have something valuable to offer.  We have different ways of knowing and understanding, as well as unique perspectives in any given situation.   If I’m looking at a plant, I’m going to see things that someone else will not even begin to see, and likewise, they will point things out to me that I knew nothing of.  Neither view is right or wrong, but each view is a knowing that can offer insight.

Perhaps we might all consider how to trust ourselves more, to deepen our understanding of what knowing is for us, and certainly to question what is generally accepted as true.  We so easily fall into traps of believing something is right or true based on outside influences such as media, cultural discourses, national laws and standards, family and peers.  I wonder how we might live and experience the world if we could wipe the slate clean and see what is asking to be known?   What might we learn if we questioned generally accepted principles?  What if we got really comfortable saying, “I don’t know?”

May you be blessed by the unknown, enjoying the questions and bathing in the uncertainty.  May you more deeply trust your unique ways of knowing from a place of stillness and connection to Spirit.  May we all be open to the knowing of others, learning, questioning, and discovering so that we can all prepare a new paradigm for Humanity and our dear Mother Earth.


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