Friday, September 16, 2011

Anonymous I

Anonymous I
by Scott Bradley

“It is the doctrine of Not-Knowing "a firm belief" and an obstruction to your life's path?” (sic)
— Anonymous

This will be the second direct answer to a comment made on one of my posts. For the most part, I have avoided doing so because, among other practical reasons already elaborated, I don’t want to get involved in debates. I would rather encourage people to write their own ideas, for which there is ample space, and leave it at that. Let a thousand flowers bloom, and all that...But this is a good question, and though I have essentially indirectly answered it before, I will address it here now with the proviso that we remember it really doesn’t matter what I think.

I am not really sure that this is a question at all, being, as it is, a declarative sentence with a question mark attached. It is in that sense, rhetorical, the author’s opinion having already being expressed — a bit of a grammatical Freudian slip. No matter.

The answer is both yes and no; it can be an obstruction and a belief, but it does not need to be. It comes down to attitude. When I react negatively to the knowing and belief of others, that reaction is itself knowing and belief. It is egoic. It is allowing the external to affect the internal.

In another sense, I really don’t see not-knowing as a ‘belief’ at all, except, perhaps, as I might say I believe I will die. It seems like an unavoidable fact of my existence. I do not know, and cannot see any way I can know. I choose to use this fact to my advantage — to use it as a means to go beyond knowing. But, yes, I have no business telling anyone else that they cannot know. So, sometimes it does become a ‘doctrine’ and a ‘belief’ in these posts.

I have written before about that story in the Zhuangzi where Confucius sends a disciple to the wake of person of ‘Taoist’ persuasion only for him to discover the deceased’s friends singing and making merry. When the scandalized disciple returns and relates this to Confucius, the Sage tells him that these men “live outside the lines” and know a spiritual reality in which he does not participate. When asked why he does not follow their example, he declares that he cannot, for he is “condemned by Heaven” to live within the lines.

I do not see this story as a negative assessment of Confucius, but rather as an affirmation of the great multiplicity of ways which are all equally expressions of our humanity. I have believed. I can believe no more. Call it, if you will, “condemned by Heaven”.

And isn’t it all just a bunch of baloney after all? Aren’t we all just having fun, muddling along?

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.


  1. Sorry for the typo; I meant "Is the doctrine of Not-Knowing "a firm belief" and an obstruction to your life's path"?

    The following is a declarative sentence;
    Explanation; If a person is bent strong on the "absoluteness" of the doctrine of "No-Belief", all thinking and philosophising gets filtered through that belief. There is a strong bias of belief that thought is influenced by. Non-Belief becomes the anchor of thought instead of the free flow of the wind that blows where it blows.

  2. In re-reading your post, I surely did not intend and hope you do not construe that the sharing of my thoughts is for the sole purpose of arguing. I sincerely see inconsistencies. I also think it is healthy to directly engage in other views as it helps stretch us beyond our lines. In regards to going beyond our lines, isn't “Condemned by Heaven” to live within the lines just another belief? A belief that condemns you to that belief?


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