What they thought they knew was a lot, what they actually knew was very little

From our perspective, what they actually knew and was factually accurate was very little. But what they thought they knew, or what they believed based on earlier generations of scholarship, there was actually a surprisingly large amount of that. […] They had a good amount of knowledge about Egypt, but the knowledge they had is not knowledge we necessarily would acknowledge as still being valid. 

– William Clark from Grey History, at 32-33 minutes into Bonus: Napoleon in Egypt, The History of Egypt Podcast

I listened to a podcast where one of the hosts said this about what late 1700s/early 1800s European scholars knew about ancient Egypt.

If humanity and our civilization are still around in two hundred years, they will likely say the same about us: What they thought they knew was a lot, what they actually knew was very little.

PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE

Of course, having this bigger perspective is part of science. My teachers in middle and high school had an academic background and would mention it now and then. I read about it in the books of Fritjof Capra and others in my mid-teens. It was the first I learned at University. (The first semester at the University of Oslo focused on the history, philosophy, and methods of science.)

So it is slightly amusing and baffling when scholars and professionals don’t seem to have this perspective. They seem to assume that the same doesn’t apply to us from the perspective of the future.

This also came up for me when I studied psychology. A lot was presented as “this is how it is” when it was based on flimsy research and could be interpreted in many other ways, and in general was part of a field of study that’s still in its infancy and is only barely and tangentially a “hard science” no matter how hard they try to be a hard science. I assume many did have this perspective, and would talk about it in that context if asked, but put it aside partly for convenience.

WE DO THE SAME IN OUR OWN LIFE

I assume most of us do this in our own life as well.

I sometimes pretend to myself (and others) that I know a lot, while in reality, I know very little.

This not just what I think I know about the world. It includes anything I think I know about life, myself, and others. The most basic assumptions I have about myself and life. (I am a human, an object in the world, a doer, an observer.) Whatever painful stories that I – somewhere – hold as true. (She should understand me. I am not good enough. Life is not kind.) 

HOLDING IT ALL MORE LIGHTLY

For me, this is freeing. It helps me see our civilization in a bigger perspective, and it helps me see my own worldview and ideas about life, others, and myself in a bigger perspective.

I can use ideas and pointers as guides for orienting and functioning in the world, and I can see it all in the bigger picture and hold it more lightly.

There is information and experience that would turn how I see and understand anything upside-down and inside-out. There are whole worldviews that would make as much or more sense to me than the one(s) I have now.

POINTING TO MY NATURE

Thoughts do not provide any solid ground to stand on. So what can I do?

This is something that points to my first-person nature.

I find that my only metaphorical refuge is to notice my more fundamental nature, and to rest in and as that noticing. And really, what’s happening is that my nature notice itself – to the extent that’s possible – and rest in and as that noticing.

WHAT ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF WHAT WE COLLECTIVELY ARE MISSING?

What do we miss in our current Western civilization and worldview?

Of course, I don’t know since I am part of and embedded in this time and civilization.

But I can make some guesses, based on my own biases and filters.

We don’t make much use of an understanding of holarchies, systems theories, and integral models and perspectives. They are out there but not adopted by most scholars, researchers, or people in general. In an imagined future, I see us collectively making use of these and updated versions and understandings in this same family of modes and thoughts.

Awakening and our more fundamental first-person nature are not part of our Western mindset or academic study to any significant extent. There is some research into it and some discussion about it, but it’s all on the margins. To ourselves, we are consciousness, and the world to us happens within and as that consciousness. That has profound implications which our Western civilization has only barely begun to explore. In an imagined future civilization, this is far more central to psychology, philosophy, and many other fields of study, and far more part of our worldview and daily life.

Western medicine doesn’t understand much of how other approaches to health and healing work. As a whole, it’s not interested and the few who are exist on the margins. There is very little understanding of traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic and similar approaches to medicine. There is very little understanding of energy work and energetic approaches to healing. There is very little understanding of shamanic approaches to healing. And so on. This is a huge gap in the current worldview of Western medicine. In an imagined future, there is a much larger integral perspective that includes and holds it all, and explores and tries to understand it all from many different perspectives and worldviews.

As I often write about, we are in a global ecological overshoot. We use the metaphorical savings account of Earth, which looks OK until we reach the bottom of it and our lifestyle and everything else – our planetary ecosystem and our civilization – comes crashing down. Very few take this seriously, including scholars and researchers who should know better. Even the ones talking about climate change are missing this bigger and far more important picture which is global ecological overshoot. In an imagined future civilization, they understand and take this seriously. It’s part of the fundamentals of their worldview and how they organize themselves collectively and individually. Their social systems function within ecological realities, and not on a fantasy as in our current civilization.

Similarly, we live within an ecocidal civilization. We have set up our systems so that what’s easy and attractive to do is also destructive to our health, the health of our ecosystems, and the health and even the existence of future generations. This is largely not understood, and most people only grasp small pieces of it. In an imagined future civilization, what’s easy and attractive to do – individually and collectively – is also what supports life and the health and well-being of ourselves, the ecosystems, and future generations. (Of course, they will get a lot wrong but the intention is there and the willingness to learn and make changes.)

We see ourselves as separate entities. That’s not wrong but we are missing out on a bigger and far more meaningful, nurturing, and guiding perspective. In an imagined future civilization, we know in our bones that we are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. We are the universe bringing itself into consciousness. (Quotes from Carl Sagan in Cosmos.) Looking back, our current civilization looks poor, lost, and profoundly misguided in its small and fragmented view.

We see ourselves as alone in the universe, largely because we don’t have solid evidence for anything else. That’s OK and understandable. But there is an imagined future where we have made contact and we know we are part of a cosmic society. (There are many ways a contact can be made, from distant astronomical observations to direct contact. And who knows if any actual communication or exchange will be possible, at least at first.)

Note: This is one of the many articles I normally end up not posting. Something about it doesn’t feel quite right. It doesn’t feel as personal or juicy as I would like. It was written when my brain fog was stronger than usual. The content seems a little too obvious, with no surprise twist or layers. I thought I would post it anyway.

Image is by me and Midjourney


SECOND DRAFT

From our perspective, what they actually knew and was factual accurate was very little. But what they thought they knew, or what they believed based on earlier generations of scholarship, there was actually a surprisingly large amount of that. […] They had a good amount of knowledge about Egypt, but the knowledge they had is not knowledge we necessarily would acknowledge as still being valid. 

– William Clark from Grey History, at 32-33 minutes into Bonus: Napoleon in Egypt, The History of Egypt Podcast

I listened to a podcast where one of the hosts said this about what late 1700s/early 1800s European scholars knew about ancient Egypt.

Of course, that’s how it looks in hindsight.

THEY WERE LIKE US, AND WE ARE LIKE THEM

They thought they knew a lot and that past generations knew much less and got a lot wrong.

We think we know a lot and that past generations knew much less and got a lot wrong.

If humanity and our civilization is still around in two hundred years, they will likely see us in the same way.

WHEN SCHOLARS PRETEND THEY KNOW

Since my teens, I have found it amusing – and a bit baffling and frustrating – when I see scholars or professionals assume that this applies to past generations and not us.

Some of them seem to pretend that we are not in the same boat as past generations. They don’t seem to fully take in that this applies to us as much as it applies to past generations.

This was also a frustration when I studied psychology. A lot was presented as “this is how it is” when it was based on flimsy research and could be interpreted in many other ways, and in general was part of a field of study that’s still in its infancy and is only barely and tangentially a “hard science” no matter how hard they try to be a hard science.

Of course, having this bigger perspective is part of science. It was the first I learned when I entered university. (The first semester at the University of Oslo was all about history, philosophy, and methods of science.) But it didn’t seem to have sunk in everywhere. It was often left aside when professors and others spoke about specifics, probably partly for convenience.

WE DO THE SAME IN OUR OWN LIFE

That’s seems to be how it is for us as individuals as well.

I pretend to myself (and others) that I know a lot, while I, in reality, know very little.

That includes all the things we think we know about life, ourselves, and others. And perhaps especially the painful stories that I as a whole or parts of me hold as true. (She should understand me. I am not good enough. Life is not kind. And so on.) 

I find that any story I hold as true is painful. It’s out of alignment with reality.

HOLDING IT ALL MORE LIGHTLY

For me, this is freeing. It helps me see our civilization in a bigger perspective, and it helps me see my own worldview and ideas about life, others, and myself in a bigger perspective.

There is a lot I don’t know. There is a lot I am getting wrong. If I had more information, I would likely see much – if not everything – in a different way. Other ways of understanding would be available to me – and make more sense to me – if I had more information and experience.

That goes for even the most basic assumptions I have about the world, others, and myself. There is information and experience that I don’t have which would turn how I see and understand it upside-down and inside-out.

There are whole worldviews that would make as much or more sense to me than the one(s) I have now.

I can’t take my thoughts – about anything – too seriously. They are questions about the world. They do not represent any final or absolute truth.

POINTING TO MY NATURE

This also points to my more fundamental first-person nature.

Thoughts do not provide any solid ground to stand on. So what can I do?

My only metaphorical refuge is to notice my more fundamental nature, and to rest in and as that noticing. It’s in my nature noticing itself and resting in and as that noticing.

WHAT ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF WHAT WE COLLECTIVELY ARE MISSING?

What do we miss in our current Western civilization and worldview?

Of course, I don’t know since I am part of and embedded in this time and civilization.

But I can make some guesses, based on my own biases and filters.

We don’t make much use of an understanding of holarchies, systems theories, and integral models and perspectives. They are out there but not adopted by most scholars, researchers, or people in general. In an imagined future, I see us collectively making use of these and updated versions and understandings in this same family of modes and thoughts.

Awakening and our more fundamental first-person nature are not part of our Western mindset or academic study to any significant extent. There is some research into it and some discussion about it, but it’s all on the margins. To ourselves, we are consciousness, and the world to us happens within and as that consciousness. That has profound implications which our Western civilization has only barely begun to explore. In an imagined future civilization, this is far more central to psychology, philosophy, and many other fields of study, and far more part of our worldview and daily life.

Western medicine doesn’t understand much of how other approaches to health and healing work. As a whole, it’s not interested and the few who are exist on the margins. There is very little understanding of traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic and similar approaches to medicine. There is very little understanding of energy work and energetic approaches to healing. There is very little understanding of shamanic approaches to healing. And so on. This is a huge gap in the current worldview of Western medicine. In an imagined future civilization, there is a much larger integral perspective that includes and holds it all, and explores and tries to understand it all from many different perspectives and worldviews.

As I often write about, we are in a global ecological overshoot. We use the metaphorical savings account of Earth, which looks OK until we reach the bottom of it and our lifestyle and everything else – our planetary ecosystem and our civilization – comes crashing down. Very few take this seriously, including scholars and researchers who should know better. Even the ones talking about climate change are missing this bigger and far more important picture which is global ecological overshoot. In an imagined future civilization, they understand and take this seriously. It’s part of the fundamentals of their worldview and how they organize themselves collectively and individually. Their social systems function within ecological realities, and not on a fantasy as in our current civilization.

Similarly, we live within an ecocidal civilization. We have set up our systems so that what’s easy and attractive to do is also destructive to our health, the health of our ecosystems, and the health and even the existence of future generations. This is largely not understood, and most people only grasp small pieces of it. In an imagined future civilization, what’s easy and attractive to do – individually and collectively – is also what supports life and the health and well-being of ourselves, the ecosystems, and future generations. (Of course, they will get a lot wrong but the intention is there and the willingness to learn and make changes.)

We see ourselves as separate entities. That’s not wrong but we are missing out on a bigger and far more meaningful, nurturing, and guiding perspective. In an imagined future civilization, we know in our bones that we are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. We are the universe bringing itself into consciousness. (Quotes from Carl Sagan in Cosmos.) Looking back, our current civilization looks poor, lost, and profoundly misguided in its small and fragmented view.

We see ourselves as alone in the universe, largely because we don’t have solid evidence for anything else. That’s OK and understandable. But there is an imagined future where we have made contact and we know we are part of a cosmic society. (There are many ways a contact can be made, from distant astronomical observations to direct contact. And who knows if any actual communication or exchange will be possible, at least at first.)

INITIAL DRAFT

I listened to a podcast where one of the hosts said this about what late 1700s/early 1800s European scholars knew about ancient Egypt: 

From our perspective, what they actually knew and was factual accurate was very little. But what they thought they knew, or what they believed based on earlier generations of scholarship, there was actually a surprisingly large amount of that. […] They had a good amount of knowledge about Egypt, but the knowledge they had is not knowledge we necessarily would acknowledge as still being valid. – William Clark from Grey History, at 32-33 minutes into Bonus: Napoleon in Egypt, The History of Egypt Podcast

Of course, that’s how it looks in hindsight. That’s what they likely will say about us in two hundred years, if humanity and/or our civilization is still around then. 

What we think we know is a lot. What we actually know is very little. I always find it amusing – and a bit baffling and frustrating – when I see scholars or professionals assume that this applies to past generations and not us. They pretend that they got a lot wrong in the past, and now we actually know. As if past generations didn’t assume exactly that, and we are not in the same boat as past generations. 

That’s also how it is for us as individuals. We pretend to ourselves (and others) that we know a lot, while we, in reality, know very little. That includes all the things we think we know about life, ourselves, and others. (She should understand me. I am not good enough. Life is not kind. And so on.) 

There is a lot I don’t know. There is a lot I am getting wrong. If I had more information, I would likely see much – if not everything – in a different way. Other ways of understanding would be available to me – and make more sense to me – if I had more information and experience.

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