Tag Archives: epistemology

Who Is Qualified to Know What – and How?

Have you ever thought about how the organizations you were born into – family, communities, governments – society in its many interdependent forms and interrelated facets – came into being? Or are you concerned about where they might now be headed?

I certainly do. Often.

Nor are we alone. Over history, serious thinkers have pondered the subject. A LinkedIn connection recently asked for my thoughts on the possible relationship between awareness and responsibility. He framed his question in the context of social contract theory.

Though initially the subject might seem academic, it’s the basic stuff of human survival. The quality of our lives – even, ultimately, our existence – depends on the level and quality of awareness leaders bring to their organizations.

In turn, their success as leaders depends on the trust, integrity and loyalty of their followers. For in fact, rights and responsibilities on both sides – leaders AND followers — are a two-way street. And when the delicate balance of expectations and obligations is violated, social fabric unravels.

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Yet the subject doesn’t get the serious attention it urgently deserves. The consequences of taking for granted what we have inherited, with too little awareness of dangers risked by squandering the fragile blessings we enjoy, need comprehensive rethinking NOW – before it’s too late.

I responded to the question with a LinkedIn article, “Natural Leadership or Authority – Where in the Wheel Do YOU Stand?” (See www.linkedin.com/pulse/natural-leadership-authority-where-wheel-do-you-stand-patricia-west.)

A comment on that post by Lloyd Amogan sparked this extension of the subject. With his permission, I’ll quote:

Yes, there is a relationship between social contract and awareness. The awareness has to involve both our physical levels and our Spiritual levels of Awareness/Consciousness, and not many are familiar with the Spiritual Levels, hence very few are qualified to teach.

I responded:

Your premise poses an interesting question, Lloyd. If the relationship “HAS to involve” full-spectrum awareness, yet many are NOT aware, how does lack of awareness impact of the status of the contract? Some theorize that the contract is “understood” or “implied.” Is this sufficient? What consequences follow from a lack of conscious, intentional involvement in the social contract?

An after thought, if Hobbes was unfamiliar, was he unqualified to write on the subject?

Hobbes, by the way, was famous for his view that, without the overseeing rule of a leviathan ruler, human life is necessarily “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” Spiritual awareness, in his world view, was NOT a factor on either side of the leader-follower equation.

In contrast, trusted advisors to the rulers of long-lived Chinese dynasties depended on a high-level of awareness to maintain social-political stability. The Book of Change, the leadership manual upon which they depended, instills a comprehensive understanding of the human dynamics which drive social-political organizations.

The applications of the following Essay on Knowledge offer an approach to leadership awareness that might have a positive influence on the future directions of existing organizations:

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Essay 20. KNOWLEDGE

Lao Tzu believed that intuitive knowledge was the purest form of information. For that reason, he expressed his philosophy in the form of thought experiments — mental exercises designed to enhance and evolve the intuitive skills. In the Tao Te Ching, he compels us to use intuition as an equal partner with logic.” — R.L. Wing, The Tao of Power

There is a stream of transcendental, information power flowing into the DNA. . . The I CHING, which, by this hypothesis, is coincident with the DNA system, is perhaps the textbook for this cosmic force, the static tension and dynamic flux flowing into the matrix of the DNA.” — Martin Schönberger, The I Ching & The Genetic Code

Modern science tells us that the human organism is not just a physical structure made of molecules, but that, like everything else, we are also composed of energy fields. . . We, too, ebb and flow like the sea. We, too, are constantly changing. How do we, as human beings, deal with such information?” — Barbara Ann Brennan, Hands of Light

THE FRONT

Roots of knowledge mean both acknowledgment or confession, as well as to play, give, or move about. Webster’s first definition is the act, fact, or state of knowing, specifically direct acquaintance or familiarity with a fact or place.

It can mean awareness or understanding. It can mean acquaintance with the facts, range of information grasped by the mind, or enlightenment. It can mean the body of facts, principles accumulated by mankind. An archaic meaning includes carnal knowledge.

Epistemology is the branch of philosophy which defines the rules of knowledge at any given time/place, setting limits by its answers to these questions: What can be known, how, and by whom? Answers have political overtones, often assigning roles according to class, race, age or gender. They influence cultural decisions about the distribution of wealth, power, social status and access to legal protections.

Empirical science respects only information known through reason. Universities train students to dissect and analyze with quantitative and verbal skills. At its best, reason is a tool of constructive discernment, capable of articulating both tangible and intangible information.

With proper training, it can be used to harness the sub-rational, serve the super-rational and link the two, balancing their extremes. As such, reason is a harmonizing function.

Using reason to rule out, avoid or even demean awareness of sub- and super-rational experience is an abuse of the critical faculty.

One overlooked knowledge matrix is ingrained in our very DNA. Many striking resemblances between the structure of DNA and I Ching hexagrams suggest at least one fascinating explanation for how/why this information source resonates with inner knowing. For example, it can’t be accidental that both are both based upon a binary-quaternary code that generates a system of 64 possibilities.

The chakra system of energy transformers which traverse the spine is another knowledge matrix that affects how we process and transmit information. Each chakra filters perception. Each influences the way we interpret experience. Their existence explains how/why the inspired ideas of every religion or science change over time, being diluted and narrowed to fit the thinking of less evolved followers.

One proof of this process is the wide array of Western psychologies, each relevant to a specific chakra issue. Skinner’s is a first chakra psychology based on behavior. Freud focused on sex, a second chakra issue. Adler thought in terms of power, the third chakra. Fromm wrote about love, the fourth chakra focus. Jung was interested in literary symbols and self-actualization, which are fifth and sixth center interests.

Asian sciences, however, have recognized the interactive relationships amongst these concerns. They provide practical methods for integrating the chakras to pave an optimally functioning two-directional highway of continuous energy and information.

Chakra filters also explain why some users interpret the I Ching through the filters of the sub-rational, using it as an oracle of divination. Farmers rely on it to predict the weather and agricultural yield. Others reject such use, preferring to regard The Book of Change as a rational manual for personal improvement and professional advancement.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners refer to it as a psychological and/or medical diagnostic instrument. Still others view it as a super-rational code book, giving it spiritual interpretations. For example Taoist masters interpret it as a yogic manual detailing the alchemical process of inner transformation.

Because it encompass the whole of human experience, the I Ching actually accommodates all of these perspectives – and more.

THE BACK

Ignorance is the opposite of knowledge. It can be the innocence of an inexperienced child, or the result of being kept in the dark, deceived or misled. Some people know, but deny who they are and what they know. The social price of being different seems too high. Others fail to use love and creativity to bridge the gap between inner knowledge and outer experience, and succumb to madness.

Delusion is a perversion of knowledge. It’s a belief that things are as one wants or fears, not as they actually are; or thinking one knows everything there is to know, when one doesn’t. Untrained mediums are sometimes misguided either by their own fantasies or dark angels posing as benefactors.

To Survive, Change Your Rules

Expanding Rules of the Knowledge Game would give problem-solvers greater leverage over a wide range of social-political malfunctions, from budget deficits to crime (legalized theft included).

A wider field of accepted information options would give a broad new range of diagnostic tools for pinpointing origins of unjust discrimination, inequitable wealth distribution, work-place violence, addictions and mental-emotional depression. It would give a new face to healing PTSD and preventing suicide.

What these personal, social and political ills have in common is a fatal knowledge deficit.

But before defining Rules of the Knowledge Game (epistemology), I’ll share two examples from personal experience. They’re comical, but they demonstrate the basic mistakes people make on limited information.

The first occurred when I was 6 and my brother David was 5. We were living in Tuscon, Arizona at the time. A blond-haired playmate age 3 who lived down the street adored David. Jason pleaded with his mom for a hair cut just like David’s. He expected the change to transform him into the likeness of his idol. But he came home from the barber streaming tears of childish disappointment.

The brush cut didn’t change his hair color from blond to David’s dark brown, nor did it transfer any of the desirable qualities associated with his hero to Jason.

The second happened when I was in my mid-20s. Rooming with a yoga student in Madison, Wisconsin, I was increasingly troubled as more and more of my stuff – kitchen utensils and even clothing – went missing. When I asked Mukit (her initiate name) if she knew anything about this, she explained why she felt free to take whatever she wanted.

“We are all One,” she said. By her logic, it followed that my stuff was hers too.

These are just small examples of the twin mistakes that continue to repeat when our reality maps aren’t complete and accurate. Writ large, they generate crimes and tragedies in every area of life, on every scale of magnitude.

What is lacking is the two-directional, in- and out-breathing reality map which accounts for all dimensions of personal experience and puts them in prioritized perspective.

Today’s prevailing Rules of the Knowledge Game exclude vitally important components of the human condition. Here, “Rules of the Knowledge Game” refers not to philosophical inquires into truth, but rather punitively enforced social-political taboos which prescribe what can be known, by whom, and how.

These rules stipulate what kinds of knowledge are allowed as well as others that are prohibited. Knowledge is sometimes made off-limits to second-class citizens (low income people, for example). Subtle ways of obtaining information (intuition, conscience) are written off as non-existent or invalid.

Here’s the tacit logic behind limiting the field: “Knowledge is power. IF I want to hoard power (and the resources it yields) in order to control others, THEN I must deny others access to knowledge that would empower them.”

To heal the harm incurred by limiting what can be known (ruling out the senses, intuition and conscience as valid information sources), it is imperative to reintegrate these decision-making influences into the rules of what is acceptable.

Currently, rules of empirical science dictate that only knowledge about material, tangible, observable and quantifiable objects is valid. Only university educated, degreed and certified “experts” using standardized research methods are qualified to obtain and disseminate knowledge. Here’s the picture of the hollow shell allowed by these rules.

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Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying this approach to obtaining information is invalid. In its place, on the surface of material appearances, it is an important piece of the knowledge puzzle. It’s a necessary balance to the opposite and equally exclusionary “religionist” mistake of elevating inward experience to the exclusion of the material world.

BUT, however necessary, it is not sufficient.

Throughout his lifetime, both in personal experience and professionally, the pioneering Swiss analyst Carl Jung dealt with the suffering caused by squeezing the richness of life experience into this hollow mold. As a matter of personal sanity and social health, he advocated “individuation” as a process for reintegrating all the layers and levels of life into conscious awareness.

The Life Wheel compliments Jung’s work. It can be used as method to assist in this process of making the unconscious conscious, of restoring access to inner knowing that has been repressed by socialization, including education.

Here is a picture to show you what I’m getting at:

Wealth.sized

On the outward path, the individuation process differentiates the individual from the universal center. It integrates timeless unity with the outward layers of idea, energy, action and results. This was the reality check Mukti needed – a correct picture of where my personal boundaries began and hers ended. We are one at the center, but not on the surface. It was NOT okay for her to take my things.

On the inward, return path, the individuation process reintegrates personal, separate identity with awareness of the timeless, universal source. This is what Jason lacked – a concept of his own inherent value, independent of the people. events and circumstances around him. The qualities he admired in David weren’t defined by physical attributes. Looking on the outside for the inherent self-worth he already had on the inside was a sure recipe for disappointment.

What is needed to change the Rules of the Knowledge Game is access to a useful reality map, one that includes the whole of human experience, one that is easily converted into a practical diagnostic and decision-making tool. That is the purpose of working with the Life Wheel. It can easily be personalized to ask, “Where in the Wheel Am I NOW?” — “Where Do I Intend To Be?” — and then decide – “How Do I Get from Here to There?”

Expanding Rules of the Knowledge Game to match the whole of life can be a matter of life or death. For example, just as 3 year-old Jason tried to acquire my brother’s virtues through imitation, David, in turn, copied his dad. As a Yale grad, David chose to become a physician, following in the footsteps of our Harvard-trained cardiologist father.

David too accepted the scientist’s belief that exclusively empirical science can explain everything. He dismissed other approaches to knowledge as ignorant superstition. He rejected as quackery my quest for deeper knowledge about the origins and purpose of life.

I dearly hope when when faced by extreme adversity, he’ll not, for lack of inner awareness, make the same choice his medical role model did.

When we first found out in the year 2002 – 50 years after the fact – that Kirby hadn’t died of a sudden heart attack (as we grew up believing), that he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the back of the head, my younger sister Annie was instantly reminded of a haunting poem by Edward Arlington Robinson.

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim. . . .

. . . he was rich – yes, richer than a king –
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without meat, and cursed the bread.
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

This poem dramatizes the saying, “Appearances are deceiving.” The key difference it illustrates is this. Those who endured external adversity by patiently waiting for the light survived. Whereas Cory, who seemed to “have it all,” lacked awareness of the inner resources needed to cope with hidden suffering.

Without the confidence that comes from inner wealth, all the riches in the world cannot withstand the despairing, dark of night of the soul.

In sum: the first front against suffering remains knowledge. Knowledge – complete and correct – is the beginning of empowerment. Ultimately, changing the Rules of the Knowledge Game is matter of personal as well as human survival.

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