When you fall in love with the unknown, you are free.
– Byron Katie
This is not the unknown that’s outside of what we think we know. This is the unknown within what we think we know. The receptivity that comes from knowing we cannot know anything for certain. And that this applies to everything, including our own personal life and who and what we take ourselves to be.
In a Facebook link to an article about the epidemic, someone wrote “it’s obvious” – meaning that the general info about the epidemic shared in the article was obvious. It may be obvious to you. And to others, it may be vital information. And what you think is obvious may not even be correct.
Everything is obvious when we know something. It’s not obvious when we don’t know it. And what we think is obvious may turn out to be wrong and not so obvious after all.
Although I am no expert on the Tarot (or even a beginner!), I know it can be very helpful as a projection object. Through synchronicities and universal symbols and archetypes, the cards become a mirror for us.
I enjoy taking a quote or the title of a book and explore it for myself and see what I find. And I also like exploring universal symbols in the same way.
So what about The Fool from the Tarot?
The first thing I see is someone who seems to enjoy the sun and the beauty of life and is about to step off a cliff. Perhaps the dog is trying to warn him?
In a conventional sense, that’s obviously foolish. Here is someone living in his own world and not taking care of the basics of his own life, and that can sometimes happen to all of us.
It’s more interesting to me to explore this in a bigger view. For instance, I can see how The Fool represents awakening.
Stepping off a cliff is similar to stepping into the unknown. We are always stepping into – and living – in the unknown, whether we know it or not.
This moment – and life – is ultimately a mystery. We cannot know anything for certain. Even what seems the most certain to us is ultimately not.
At the same time, we know many things in a provisional sense. We know our name. How we appear to others and in the mirror. What labels we have in society. How to go about our daily life. And much more. All of this is very useful in a practical and pragmatic sense. Even if there is no ultimate or final truth to any of it.
Many will admit that this is accurate, although most of us will also cling to certain ideas and identities as if they were ultimately true. And from this way of living, deeply embracing and embodying all as the unknown may seem attractive, foolish, and slightly disturbing.
The Fool is dressed in a tunic decorated with stars and leaves. He encompasses the whole universe and all of life. He knows about Big Mind and that it’s his true nature. Big Mind may even notice itself as all there is including The Fool knowing about the ultimate mystery of all.
The dog is perhaps warning him from stepping off the cliff. In this view, the dog represents the parts of us scared of embracing the unknown. The dog may also be excited that he is knowingly stepping into the unknown. When we are more free from the constriction of beliefs and identifications, it can free us to more deeply embrace and embody our animal nature. (We are also more free to follow our inner guidance and live a more kind and authentic life.)
The flower may represent beauty and enjoyment of life and nature. Embracing the unknown, we open for gratitude and appreciation of what is – both what our personality likes and what it doesn’t like.
He carries a small bag. In it, I imagine he has whatever he needs for his journey. He doesn’t need much and he carries the little he needs with him. [Note: After writing this, I was informed that the bag contains the whole tarot deck. The Fool carries with him all the archetypes and the wholeness.]
There is a circle above him. Perhaps this represents zero or not knowing. Or the unity of all life. Or the oneness recognizing itself – including as this human self who doesn’t know anything for certain and always steps into and lives in the unknown.
The sun is shining. When we discover ourselves as that which all our experiences happen within and as, we find that which is independent of the “weather” of experience. A metaphor for this is the clear sky above the weather where the sun always shines. (At least, during the day!)
Interpreting The Fool in this way, it becomes a very beautiful image and archetype. He becomes the holy fool.
There are many daily-life and conventional mysteries. How did Earth evolve into a living system? Is there life other places in the universe? How to cure cancer? What is gravity? Is there life after death? Why didn’t she answer my phone call?
There is no end to these mysteries. And we have some answers to some of them. At best, these are pragmatic answers that helps us orient and function in the world, even if they are by no means the final word.
In a sense, everything is a mystery, including the things we tell ourselves we understand or have a practical grasp on. We don’t really know what’s going on.
And there is yet another mystery, the biggest and ultimate and perhaps most baffling mystery: that anything exists at all. Why is there something rather than nothing?
As far as I know, we don’t really have any answers to that one. Not even the beginning of an answer. (Apart from mythological ones which, in my experience, don’t seem to touch it.)
For me, this question stills my mind. It shows my mind what it cannot even begin to grasp.
I have several sources of apparent information about it.
Some research suggests life goes on, and that we may even be reborn. I have been very interested in this research since I was perhaps eight or ten years old. And I am also aware that the research on this topic is sparse, there are several different interpretations on the data, and that more and better research is needed.
Religions tell us there is an afterlife of some sort, whether indefinitely or for a while until rebirth. These are religions and have their own agenda, and these are ideas created by someone and then passed on as (often unquestioned) truth.
Atheism says nothing will happen. After we die, we are gone. They make assumptions and are also not always in the truth business. Atheism can be a religion on its own.
Ric W., the current Vortex Healing lineage holder, talks about rebirth and also that we won’t need to be reborn if some of the energetic structures or veils creating strong separation identity have been removed. (As happens in awakening.) This fits the spiritual traditions I trust the most, and if I were to put my money somewhere, it would be here. This too is what someone has said and not something I have been able to verify on my own.
When I do Vortex Healing for people after they have died, I seem to sense how they are and how they experience their new bodiless existence. I tentatively assume this is accurate since when I sense something in Vortex sessions for living people and I check with them, it is most often accurate. Also, in one case I did VH for someone I thought was alive but had actually recently died, and I did sense that his body had fallen away and he still hadn’t adapted to a bodiless existence.
Even as a little child, I had images that looks like memories of life between lives. These images fit perfectly what others describe, even if I didn’t know that at the time. My experience was of all as consciousness and (golden) light, of all as infinite love and wisdom, and there was a profound sense of being home. These are images and although it seems real, I cannot know for certain.
Later on, I had images of past lives that felt like past lives, and others who sense these things have agreed. Again, these are images with some feelings attached to them and I don’t really know. (For me, past life images are useful for reflecting and highlighting issues I have now and I am less interested in whether they are “true” past lives or not.)
So although I have all these sources of information, I honestly don’t know. That’s the authentic answer. Whether it’s one way or another, all I have is what’s here now. My responsibility is to what’s here now. Death comes when it comes, and that’s another phase of the adventure.
As the Zen master said when asked about life after death (paraphrased):
I don’t know, I am not dead yet. Ask me then. (And I won’t answer.)
There is a valuable upside to not knowing what will happen after we are dead, and about anything in the future (or past, or present). It brings us back to immediacy, to what’s here and now. That’s all we have.
There are a couple of different types of not knowing.
One is that we don’t know anything for certain. Any thought is tentative and inherently a question about the world. It can be a practical guide to help us orient and function in the world. But it has no finality to it. It’s not the last word. Most or all of our collective and individual knowledge will eventually seem outmoded and belonging to a certain phase of our life and development. We can still act on our tentative knowledge while realizing it is tentative. That opens for receptivity and curiosity.
Another is not knowing in a conventional sense. We may miss information or knowledge, or just don’t know what to do in a certain situation.
It’s common for us to realize this in a general way while not realizing it thoroughly in all areas of our life. Often, some parts of us believe we know something in a certain area of life.
For instance, I notice I am not always 100% comfortable with my health situation or general life situation, and that shows me that some parts of me believe thoughts about it. Some parts of me don’t realize that these thoughts, that come from culture, parents, friends and more, are tentative. They are questions. They are not the final word.
The examples here are innumerable. Most of us have some ingrained beliefs about ourselves, others, or the world. They can take the form of rigid views and assumptions, wounds, trauma, and hangups. And they can also take the form of believing we ultimately are a separate being and that the physical world is something more substantial than awakeness itself.
This is where inquiries like The Work or the Living Inquiries come in and can be very helpful. They help us identify and question these thoughts that some parts of us hold as an absolute truth.
I want to mention another special case of not knowing. When a facilitator or therapist works with a client, it’s normal to sometimes not know what to do next or how to best approach an issue. One way to deal with this is to be transparent, say it out loud, and invite both of you to sit in silence for a while to see what happens. Maybe something will show itself. Maybe not.
As a footnote, I can mention that when it comes to the reverse, knowing, we cannot know anything for certain in the sense mentioned above. But there is another form of knowing, and that’s knowing what we are. This is a wordless knowing and a resting in and as what we are (that which any content of experience happens within and as).
A part of Life 101 is having an open mind.
We don’t know what we’ll find in any exploration of life, whether it’s through science, psychological or spiritual explorations, or just through living our daily lives.
We honestly don’t know, apart from that it – most likely – will be different from what we think, expect, envision, hope, or fear. And when we admit to ourselves, and remind ourselves, that we don’t know, it helps us stay honest with ourselves and the process and notice what’s actually here.
It’s easier said than done. Our minds are typically experts at getting themselves caught up in hopes, fears, and expectations. Our hopes and fears have a charge, and that charge makes them irresistible to the mind. (Of course, the mind creates all this itself, but that’s for other posts.)
What can we do? We can notice. Allow. See it’s the play of the mind. Notice the specific fears and hopes. Meet them with kindness and respect. Inquire into the fears and hopes and see what we find. All of that helps the mind soften and release it’s tendency to get caught in its own creations of hopes and fears.
It can also help to see that this is universal. It’s an universal human experience. And it’s here for a good reason. Having hopes and fears, giving them a charge, and even for the mind getting caught in them, all helped our ancestors survive. We wouldn’t be here without it. At the same time, it’s not conducive to more rational big picture or long-term decisions on behalf of ourselves and humanity, or even for our individual contentment (if that’s what we seek).
Note: I mentioned charge above, and have written about it in other posts. The charge comes from thoughts – mental words and images, being associated with bodily sensations. Sensations lend a sense of reality and solidity to the thoughts and make them seem true, and thoughts lend a sense of meaning to the sensations. For instance, a set of sensation is taken by the mind to mean that I am this body, and that same idea is given a sense of substance and truth by the same sensations.
But there’s a reason we recognize Hamlet as a masterpiece: it’s that Shakespeare told us the truth, and people so rarely tell us the truth in this rise and fall here [indicates blackboard]. The truth is, we know so little about life, we don’t really know what the good news is and what the bad news is.
This is quite straight forward, and yet has a big impact to the extent it sinks in:
The only thing I know is that perception (awareness, consciousness) is. That’s all. Any content of experience is up for question.
For instance. I know there is experience here. That’s indisputable.
As for the content of this experience, I see a laptop, a room, a fire place, windows, I hear sounds outside, there is a cat here etc. Thoughts interpret my current content of experience in this way, and also adds a human being perceiving all of this, a me sitting here, and so on. And all of that is made up by images and words. It’s all up for questioning. It is, for instance, possible I exist in some sort of Matrix type reality. All of this content of experience may be created for me. It’s perhaps unlikely, but if I am honest I have to admit it’s possible. (And in a loser sense, it’s accurate. My world, as I perceive it, is created for me by this mind, by life.)
Also, I know quite well that as I question my thoughts and assumptions, including the most basic ones of a me and I, what’s revealed is often quite different from how it initially appeared.
So in this sense, Descartes had a point. If we take cogito to mean perception, he was close. I perceive, therefore perception is.
That’s all that’s known. Anything else is up for questioning. (When I wrote “I perceive, therefor I am” in the title, it’s intentionally sloppy – and more aligned with Descarte’s statement. It’s assumed that the “I” in that statement is questioned too, and that even “perception” is questioned. What is the “I” that’s perceiving? Can I find it? What’s left when I see that my images and words of an “I” are not “it”? And if I look, can I really find perception? Can I remove it and show it to someone? Can I take a picture of it and publish it in a magazine?)
Just to mention it: Questioning doesn’t mean not using conventional views as guides for my everyday life. I will still do that. The only difference is that I am open to question even my most basic assumptions, and from that holding them much more lightly. From taking my assumption as true, solid and real, and identifying with them and feeling I need to protect and defend these identities, I recognize them as assumptions and hold them more lightly. And that gives a sense of ease in my life.
In my late teens and early twenties, I had a phase where I explored astrology, palmistry and psychics. It was mostly out of curiosity, although there was also an element of wishing to find a sense of safety. There was a belief that I could find a sense of safety knowing – or thinking I could know – something about who I am and my future.
I knew I couldn’t know, of course. And there was quickly little interest in those topics (apart from as projections, and then working with those projections).
Now, there is a genuine relief in not knowing. I see the stress inherent in thinking I know something about who I am (identities) or the future. And – through specific examples – I find the freedom and availability in seeing I don’t know and cannot know.
Every psychic in the world may say I will live until I am 95. And the truth is that I don’t know. That’s more true. More peaceful. More aligned with reality.
Other people know something fundamental about life that I don’t.
That seems to be a common thought or feeling, and one I recognize from my own life as well.
It is easy to understand why we have that assumption. We are more familiar with the facade of others than what is going on internally. And that facade is often one of being in control and knowing what is going on.
The sense that others know something fundamental about life is also a projection. Others are a mirror for myself, so it is a good guess that I know something fundamental about life, but I don’t quite notice or “own” it.
In a conventional sense, there is a huge amount I don’t know about quite literally every subject.
There is a lot of information out there I am not familiar with. I have very limited experience. There are many far more knowledgeable and with far more experience about any subject. And even if I knew more than anyone else, that too is just a drop in the bucket compared to what will be known about it in the future, and that is a drop in the bucket in terms of what is possible to know. There is an infinite amount of possible information, perspectives and experience about anything in life and in the universe. And what I do know, in a conventional sense, are only preliminary guides. I don’t know any of it for sure. (Apart from that it will change, and often does so dramatically, turning what I thought and my whole perspective upside down.)
So not knowing is shared. It is something we all have in common. It is something all life, all beings, share. We are all in the same boat. Just there is an immense beauty.
Ignorance is bliss. That’s another one of those simple, rich and beautiful everyday pointers.
Usually, this statement is used to point to avoiding uncomfortable information and thoughts. I avoid it, so feel better in the short term.
So I can take it as a question and explore what happens around thoughts I tend to avoid.
What happens when I avoid thoughts that makes me uncomfortable? What is the experience? Does the thought surface anyway? Can I prevent a thought from surfacing? What are the practical consequences of avoiding certain information and thoughts?
What happens if I meet these thoughts with interest and curiosity? What happens if I take the time to inquire into them?
What are the specific information and thoughts I tend to avoid? What do I find when I investigate one of these? And another one?
When something happens I don’t have a ready explanation for, it is a good opportunity to see my need-to-know mind.
As usual, it is easier to first see this in others. And right now, I can see it in the scramble to figure out what happened to Air France flight 447 where media and bloggers elaborate on a wide range of theories in the absence of any data.
This desire to know is partly very practical. Knowing what happened can help us prevent similar accidents in the future, and that is good. But when I compulsively spin stories in the absence of data, it points to being caught up in beliefs.
From here, I can work with it in several different ways.
How do I relate to the emotions and experiences that comes up for me around it? Do I resist these? What happens when I resist? Can I instead be with these emotions and experiences? Can I allow it, as it is, as if it would never change, with kindness and heart?
Ohhh you have too much fun breaking all the rules
Ohhh maybe so much fun I just might break them too
Oooh just trouble
Oooh you’re trouble
Mmm just trouble
– Bitter:Sweet, Trouble
One of the synchronicities life is so full of:
My wife picked up the copy of Astronomy I am reading, looked at an article called Is there something we don’t know about gravity? and read out loud…
Spacecraft flybys and the moon’s orbit aren’t following predictions. Whatever is causing this could usher in a new theory of gravity.
As a punchline, the lyrics of the music we are listening followed with Ohhh you have too much fun breaking all the rules.
This is another reminder of how life is full of pointers and questions for practice. We create stories about the world, including through science, and life show up differently. It is not limited by our stories or rules. And that is beautiful, there is no problem there. But if we take those stories – any story – as true, we are in trouble. Or rather, we perceive life as trouble.
Oooh just trouble
Oooh you’re trouble
Mmm just trouble
The quote above especially made an impression on me, maybe because it is something I have explored on my own lately.
When I have an expectation, I have a plan. I have a plan for how it will turn out, and I may either interpret what happens so it fits my expectation, or act so it is more likely to happen – to the extent it can at least.
Resistance to don’t know can show up in different ways…
If I want to know, but can’t find a story to land on, there is a sense of confusion. Identification with a desire to know without finding a good candidate story, creates a sense of confusion.
If I want to know, and find a story that can play the role, I may take it as true. I pretend it is true, and live as if it is true. I make it true for myself in my mind and life, as well as I can. And life plays along as well as it can.
In both of these cases, identification with a resistance to don’t know is identification within content of experience, creating a sense of I and Other. In the first case, Other is the desired and elusive story of knowing. In the second case, Other is any story threatening the apparent truth of the story I decided to cling to as true.
And all of that applies to this as well. These stories are just pointers, questions, something to explore. What I find is another question.
There is no truth to any of these stories., including this one. At most, they can be pointers (apparently) helpful in some situations and not other.
When I go into knowing, there is automatically a sense of I and Other. A sense of being located in time and space. A sense of something – a story and its identity – to protect. A sense of substance and reality in the story.
When I allow it all – including the resistance to don’t know – there is a sense of opening in all directions. Not being located anywhere in particular. Receptivity. Curiosity. No story or identity to protect.
In most areas of life, demystifying that which can be demystified is a practical and sensible approach. (Or so we think in our culture, so why not play along?)
Most spiritual teachers today do a good job demystifying mysticism. They use a clear and direct language. They use a practical approach. They often describe direct experience instead of relying exclusively on traditional – and sometimes confusing – terminology.
And by doing this, what is truly mystifying is left even more obviously mystifying.
Something is. What can be more amazing?
And I don’t know. A story may appear functional in a practical sense, but it is still a story. A story may appear to point to what I am, but it doesn’t really. Even when what I am is awake to itself, that is all that is known. And even that is mystifying.
So it can be helpful to demystify that which can be demystified, such as maps and pointers, leaving what is truly mystifying still mystifying.
And it may be less helpful to do the reverse. To mystify that which can be clear. And to demystify – by taking stories about it as true – that which is genuinely mystifying, which is everything.
One of the reasons I enjoy the magician Tommy Cooper is that he seems to be completely baffled by what is happening. (See Too many bottles.)
And that is how it is for me as well. Whatever happens is completely baffling.
Fingers move. Letters appear on the screen. They reflect thoughts. Others can read them and understand. There is awareness. This human self funcitons in the world. Choices are made. There is a sense of a separate I here or not. There is something rather than nothing.
I am every bit as baffled as Tommy Cooper.
And all of it is a play… Pretending to be baffled. Being baffled. Covering it up and pretending to not be baffled. The tricks themselves.
There is the not knowing outside of thought and stories, and the not knowing inside of thought and stories.
Awareness is inherently free from knowing, and this is noticed when this field of awakeness and form awakens to itself as a field, inherently free from the filter of any story, including the stories of a separate self, a center, a subject and object, and so on. This is the not knowing outside of thoughts and stories, the not knowing inherent in the Buddha Mind. And we can notice this one in a simple way by asking ourselves: is knowing inherent in the awareness of what is happening here now, or does a sense of knowing come from the filter of thought overlaid on this?
Then there is the conventional not knowing, the not knowing within the context of stories. The world is always more than and different from our stories about it (our maps, theories, assumptions, guesses, beliefs), so our stories are of temporary and practical value only. They help us orient and navigate in the world, but not much more than that. Inherent in any story is the not knowing from it having only limited and practical value, at best, and from the equally limited truth in each of its reversals.
Noticing and becoming familiar with both of these forms of not knowing is of great value in our lives. The first not knowing help us notice what we really are, free from and outside of any stories. The second not knowing helps us see stories as only tools of practical and temporary value. Both help us find ourselves as that which is already free from stories, see thoughts as just thoughts, and free us from taking stories as anything more than just stories. There is a mutuality between both, one offering insight into the other.
And they are really just two ways of talking about the same.
The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.