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.
---- Tao Te Ching chapter 71
Last year I turned 60. It seems like for 50 of those years I have pondered eternal issues in varying degrees of intensity. For about half of that time I was a devout fundamentalist Christian with periodic questions and a growing awareness that there was more to know than what was presented in the Bible. At times, I anguished over my desire to know “the truth” and my lack of direction. Then, I had a realization that freed me from that anxiety. It probably occurred over a period of time because I do not remember a specific “Eureka” moment. It was a recognition of the immensity of the universe and my finite place within it.
As I have considered this perspective, I have come to the conclusion that neither I, nor any other human, will ever be able to completely understand God, the Source, the cosmos because it is just too vast and our comprehension is so incredibly limited. I doubt that everyone will understand the magnitude of this revelation. Many people are not particularly interested in cosmic contemplation anyway. They are quite satisfied with focusing on the day-to-day issues of their lives. Many more are content to place their absolute trust in ancient scriptures and believe that everything we need to know about God is contained there.
For those who are actively seeking a deeper revelation, the idea of not being able to know the “ultimate truth” may be unsettling or depressing. Personally I find it incredibly liberating. For me, accepting the reality of this limitation has allowed me to thoroughly cherish what I do learn and understand. I recognize that every effort to perceive God will always be partial, no matter how insightful. This offers the freedom to consider a variety of sources, gleaning what seems true, and rejecting what seems erroneous. I have yet to find any teachings that I feel compelled to fully embrace (although I thoroughly enjoy the Tao Te Ch’ing).
Does this mean that we should give up the search altogether? Of course not! If someone offers me a piece of cake, I don’t refuse it because I’m not allowed to eat the whole cake. I gratefully accept the portion that is offered. If I am among friends, I may ask for a second piece, and if someone suggests that I take some home, you can count on me gladly accepting the offer. I feel the same way about enlightenment.
I think we all just need to take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy the process of discovering what we can about the cosmos and our place in it. I have discovered a great freedom and joy in merely following a path of illumination as it is presented to me. There is an old Buddhist saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher will come.”