An honest, open-minded look at knowledge vs. ignorance

spiritual principle – open-mindednessThis post — dedicated to those who would choose religious fundamentalism over knowledge — was inspired by a quotation positing the uselessness and futility of unapplied knowledge.

Bill, a religious friend of mine and quite a good fellow, referenced one of his favorite quotes about knowledge during another of our frequent and enjoyable hikes at beautiful Radnor Lake. This particular quote implies that knowledge is generally useless and futile unless the given knowledge is useful in some way or can be directly applied in one’s life.

To know and not to do is really not to know.
Stephen R. Covey

On its face at least, this nugget of wisdom seems to leave little or no room for studying subjects of interest due to fascination, interest, or a general desire to learn more about the endlessly amazing, mysterious universe we inhabit.

The time spent by this blogger learning more about biology, evolution, geology, astronomy, cosmology, religion, spirituality, philosophy, and other subjects is a waste of time, Bill’s knowledge quote implies, unless the absorbed material proves to be useful in some practical fashion and can be applied in life.

The recipe for perpetual ignorance is: Be satisfied with your opinions and content with your knowledge.

Elbert Hubbard

Power of imagination

the flying spaghetti monsterGranted, as Einstein said, the power of imagination can trump pure knowledge — but only when one’s imagination is grounded in wisdom or knowledge, or based on educated guesses regarding how things work — as opposed to imagination based upon purely superstitious or supernatural beliefs. If one were to ignore the former for the latter, then all supernatural systems & ideas should be granted a legitimate basis, including the Easter Bunny, Zeus, Santa Claus, ghosts & poltergeists, angels & demons, the flying spaghetti monster, and any other entity one can possibly imagine.

One of the masters of imagination as a spiritual practice was Neville Goddard.

Imagination and faith are the secrets of creation.
Neville Goddard, Resurrection

Ignorance: More popular than ever in Trump era

x-ray of homer simpson's brain - knowledge from reading free books onlineIn truth, ignorance is inexcusable in modern society. A newish reason for ignorance being inexcusable: Information about religion and spirituality, spiritual practices that work, and well-defined stages of spiritual development is easily accessible by anyone with a connection to the Internet. If the following is important to you at all — spiritual development, spiritual experiences and awakenings, and the general desire for your beliefs to mirror reality as closely as possible — then why not look into these things with an open mind? Of course, the old, ever-present reason to examine these things in one’s personal life is that superstitious and fundamentalist belief systems — whether religious or political — cause division, fighting, and war and prevent compromise, progress, and peace.

spiritual principle – open-mindednessOne must also consider the broader effects of local and national political leaders voted into office by those who choose to remain unknowledgeable and ignorant about the devastating effects of religious fundamentalism and hyper-partisanship not only in our incredible United States of America, but the world in general.

The only antidotes to ignorance are open-mindedness and knowledge, which one hopes will eventually be transmuted into life-altering, actionable wisdom that can be actively applied to help make the world a better place — not only for current generations of living beings, but for all those who will hopefully follow us. Leaving things as they are — that is, failing to enact major initiatives to improve sustainability and quality of life for everyone — will only lead to disasters for the next generations… disasters that as of now are still mostly preventable.

Modern careers require more knowledge than ever

We live in a knowledge-based information society. Most of today’s employed are knowledge workers. Brian Tracy and other modern self-development gurus repeatedly emphasize that the value of knowledge in today’s world cannot be overstated. Tracy says that the winners in competition for today’s jobs are those with the most knowledge. In our society the primary difference between the one who got the job and those still looking is often the degree of knowledge.

A frank examination of knowledge avoidance

Such dampening, limiting, stifling, curiosity-muzzling attitudes bring rhetorical questions to mind…

Why would an inspired individual — even more awestruck by the infinite beauty of nature with each passing day — not desire to learn more about not only this staggeringly amazing, perplexing planet but the entire universe?

How can someone — a writer, no less — possibly argue against or even minimize the importance of knowledge with a straight face?

Isn’t there at least some understanding that increasing one’s knowledge is a prerequisite for new & improved social and mental/intellectual connections, broader understanding, more thorough contemplation, previously unimaginable ideas, and enlightening realizations… perhaps even enlightenment or salvation itself? And that the only thing that can be harmed by gaining knowledge is ignorance (e.g., ignorant belief systems, superstitions, old wives’ tales, etc.)?

Such attitudes about human knowledge may help explain why some people hang on to ancient religions and superstitions and continue to embrace what others can easily see as dogma. Think about it… if there exists in one’s mind an aversion to seemingly unnecessary or irrelevant knowledge, then that individual has little or no chance of enjoying meaningful spiritual growth and development.

Related: A few problems with literal interpretation of the Bible

An aversion to seemingly irrelevant knowledge would almost certainly prevent change or pervasive, life-changing realizations substantial enough to constitute a paradigm shift, as any potential new knowledge that might challenge stubborn, deeply held supernatural beliefs would probably be avoided at all costs.

I’ll go so far as to say that attitudes minimizing the importance of human knowledge basically amount to a form of self-imposed censorship.

On the other hand, knowledge avoidance may ironically be seen as perfectly fitting for the ego-dominated mind of the fundamentalist because such a person believes she already has all the answers — or perhaps that a supernatural entity or a deity will intervene when needed.

Featured quotes about knowledge

Here are a few of my favorite knowledge quotes…

NOTE: The following knowledge quotes aren’t completely categorized into subsections; I may or may not get around to further categorization. Thanks for reading!

They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but it’s not one half so bad as a lot of ignorance.
Terry Pratchett

The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge.
Bertrand Russell

The recipe for perpetual ignorance is: Be satisfied with your opinions and content with your knowledge.
Elbert Hubbard

Knowledge is that possession that no misfortune can destroy, no authority can revoke, and no enemy can control. This makes knowledge the greatest of all freedoms.
Bryant H. McGill

Let us tenderly and kindly cherish, therefore, the means of knowledge. Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write.
John Adams

Knowledge of the self is the mother of all knowledge. So it is incumbent on me to know my self, to know it completely, to know its minutiae, its characteristics, its subtleties, and its very atoms.
Khalil Gibran

All our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds then to the understanding, and ends with reason. There is nothing higher than reason.
Immanuel Kant

Limited value of knowledge

These quotes convey the limits of knowledge.

Without knowledge action is useless and knowledge without action is futile.
Abu Bakr

Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice.
Anton Chekhov

Knowledge and ignorance

Ignorance is the curse of God; knowledge is the wing wherewith we fly to heaven.
William Shakespeare

Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.

It takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance.
Thomas Sowell

The greater our knowledge increases the more our ignorance unfolds.
John F. Kennedy

The only good is knowledge, and the only evil is ignorance.

To know, is to know that you know nothing. That is the meaning of true knowledge.

Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.
Charles Darwin

Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance.

Knowledge and imagination

Neville Goddard would probably appreciate these quotes…

Imagination is more important than knowledge.
Albert Einstein

The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.
Albert Einstein

Other quotes about knowledge

And what, Socrates, is the food of the soul? Surely, I said, knowledge is the food of the soul.
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A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.
Marcus Garvey

Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.
Kofi Annan

If you want to know the taste of a pear, you must change the pear by eating it yourself. If you want to know the theory and methods of revolution, you must take part in revolution. All genuine knowledge originates in direct experience.
Mao Zedong

Those who have knowledge, don’t predict. Those who predict, don’t have knowledge.
Lao Tzu

Where there is shouting, there is no true knowledge.
Leonardo da Vinci

Science knows no country, because knowledge belongs to humanity, and is the torch which illuminates the world. Science is the highest personification of the nation because that nation will remain the first which carries the furthest the works of thought and intelligence.
Louis Pasteur

Science is the father of knowledge, but opinion breeds ignorance.

To be conscious that you are ignorant of the facts is a great step to knowledge.
Benjamin Disraeli

The more extensive a man’s knowledge of what has been done, the greater will be his power of knowing what to do.
Benjamin Disraeli

Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom. One can find it, live it, be fortified by it, do wonders through it, but one cannot communicate and teach it.
Hermann Hesse

There is much pleasure to be gained from useless knowledge.
Bertrand Russell

He that hath knowledge spareth his words.
Francis Bacon

Change your conception of yourself and you will automatically change the world in which you live. Do not try to change people; they are only messengers telling you who you are. Revalue yourself and they will confirm the change.
Neville Goddard, Your Faith is Your Fortune

Knowledge and human power are synonymous.
Francis Bacon

Knowledge cultivates your seeds and does not sow in your seeds.
Khalil Gibran

As knowledge increases, wonder deepens.
Charles Morgan

Every great advance in natural knowledge has involved the absolute rejection of authority.
Thomas Huxley

There is no desire more natural than the desire for knowledge.
Michel de Montaigne

To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe.
Marilyn vos Savant

Knowledge is two-fold, and consists not only in an affirmation of what is true, but in the negation of that which is false.
Charles Caleb Colton

That writer does the most who gives his reader the most knowledge and takes from him the least time.
Charles Caleb Colton

Knowledge & the unknown

When you know a thing, to hold that you know it, and when you do not know a thing, to allow that you do not know it – this is knowledge.

Knowledge is knowing that we cannot know.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is not ignorance but knowledge which is the mother of wonder.
Joseph Wood Krutch

Conclusion: The knowledge quote

If I were compiling a collection of quotes to share with others for the purpose of learning, encouragement, and the general conveyance of wisdom, Bill’s quote would most likely be left out. IMHO, there are better ways to frame the idea of learning, education, and the overall quest to increase one’s knowledge.

This honoring of human knowledge might be incomplete without briefly addressing its importance in comparison to spiritually principled behavior. As critical as this blogger believes knowledge to be among the qualities of a well-balanced, productive person, knowledge alone is not nearly as important as basic, universal spiritual principles when it comes to our ultimate goal of mature personal development and spiritual awakening, enlightenment, or salvation (whichever term you prefer).


[1] Trinity

The religious idea of the trinity is virtually inexplicable and represents one of the most convoluted ideas I was taught in church and at my private Christian school.

Truth, knowledge, ignorance, and happiness

Those who are willing to abandon truth for potential happiness — those who would rather not know than risk disappointment are perhaps better suited for life inside the circles of religious fundamentalism than those who actively quest for truth and knowledge. In the interest of honesty and truth, I must admit to the possibility of an intertwined, interdependent happiness and ignorance… that a closed-off life of ignorance could be a happy and fulfilling one under certain circumstances. Perhaps this idea will be explored a future article.

Adopt maxims with caution
Proverbs and maxims have their place and can be effective, delightful tools for conveying bits of wisdom. (I’m so fond of quotes that I’ve been collecting them and copying them into books, journals, and files for almost 30 years now.) Of course, such memorable sayings can also help perpetuate dogma and falsehood — so it follows that we must apply knowledge, wisdom, and rational thought in order to grasp & analyze the intended message of any maxim. Many (if not most) quotable quotes and witty sayings are applicable only in certain situations or from particular perspectives, so maxims in general should not be taken literally or applied across the board to any set of circumstances without contemplation.

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An important caveat

This blogger is more or less a knowledge junkie, and Bill understands that. Chances are Bill’s favorite quote about knowledge is spoken with admirably principled intention: it is part of an effort to positively encourage me. I doubt Bill carries a negative attitude toward the quest for knowledge — but this is his own personal business, of course.

Friends who care enough to share, encourage, and enlighten are a wonderful thing to have, indeed.