Is Knowlege Important to Spirituality?

At best, knowledge is like a map and experience is like the terrain that the map refers to. Knowing should never be confused with experiencing.

Yet, in practice, knowing is often confused with experiencing.  That is, people often think they are making spiritual progress when what they are really doing is merely gaining knowledge. That is the same mistake as thinking one is hiking along a trail in the mountains when all one is really doing is reading a map of the hiking trail.

Entire theologies have been based on this error.

9 thoughts on “Is Knowlege Important to Spirituality?

  1. Yes that is so. But look at it this way:
    Keep the map within reach and its mere presence makes us take a journey through it.Maps are not mandatory but they help surely.

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    • I agree maps can help at times, Neela, provided they are accurate and that we know how to read them. Yet, I believe they can at times hinder us as well, and not just when they are inaccurate or when we do not know how to read them.

      I think they can hinder us to the extent that we allow them to create expectations in us that then become self-fulfilling prophecies. The classic example of that is when one has a notion of god that then becomes the only god one finds.

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  2. Knowing and experiencing go hand-in-hand. While nothing can replace direct spiritual experiences, it is knowledge that allows us to place those experiences in context and act out our spirituality in everyday life.

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  3. I agree that experience and knowledge are separate things. I think it’s worth observing that knowledge alone cannot generate experience, though experience can generate knowledge, and generally knowledge of more visceral quality.

    However, as far as the knowledge=map analogy goes, I think the only way that knowledge/map limits a person’s experience is if the knowledge is being selectively acquired. An example is only reading books that can be acquired at the church library. This is akin to consulting a map where large portions have been cut out or not drawn. Comparatively, general knowledge seeking reveals a map of many different places and landscapes. This map equips its reader to make choices as to where they are going and how they’d like to go there.

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    • I love your brilliant analogy, Grasshopper (Did you know you consistently impress as rather often on the brilliant side?) But I think you might be mistaken that knowledge limits a person’s experience only if it is selectively acquired — mistaken in the sense that perhaps almost all knowledge is, to one extent or another, selectively acquired. We are just more aware of picking and choosing what we will learn at some times rather at others.

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  4. In Buddhism, studying the Sutra will give one knowledge, but living the teaching, i.e. experience, will give one wisdom. With wisdom one can learn how to overcome any obstacle in life, to the point one looks forward to the next obstacle as an opportunity to learn more.

    Peace.

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    • As usual, Leguru, you have placed things in a wider and more interesting context. Thank you so much for that!

      I’ve been wondering where wisdom might come from. I don’t think it can be taught, but what you have said here indicates it can be learned.

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