“Not-knowing is true knowledge.
Presuming to know is a disease.
First, realize that you are sick;
then you can move toward health.
The Master is her own physician.
She has healed herself of all knowing.
Thus, she is truly whole.”
– Lao Tzu –
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 71, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
Knowledge is Power! Isn’t that what we have always been told? With all of this talk about not-knowing, is Lao Tzu anti-knowledge? Is Lao Tzu really trying to convince us that ignorance is bliss?
I am happy to be able to say that knowledge is indeed true power. Ignorance may seem like bliss, sometimes; but having true knowledge is a true state of bliss. So how is not-knowing, true knowledge?
I think we need to understand the terms Lao Tzu is using. And for that, it is important for me not to stop reading after the first line. Context is important, after all.
As I continue to read, I find out what he means by not-knowing. Presuming to know is a disease. Lao Tzu is saying that by presuming to know, we hinder our natural ability to gain true knowledge.
I know I have mentioned a time or two before about how much I hindered my parents in their efforts to teach me, when I would interrupt with “I know.” It is this presumption of knowledge that is the real problem. It is a disease.
When Lao Tzu says that not-knowing is true knowledge, he means that by ridding yourself of this presumption that you already know, you gain the necessary freedom to truly know.
It isn’t exactly a 12-step program, but you have to first acknowledge that you are sick, before you can seek healing.
Sadly, it took years before I realized just how sick I was. So much time wasted. But having taken the first step, then you can be your own physician; and cure yourself of all knowing. This is the path to wholeness.