Knowledge and Insight

Very interesting pdf file about the difference between knowledge and insight, from an informal talk of David Bohm. The following is what most stood out for me.

At any moment knowledge is a mixture of what is correct and what is incorrect.

So we are caught, responding from memory without knowing that this is actually happening. Our perceptions are shaped and colored by memory in ways that are not conscious. This evidently leads to irrelevant actions and ultimately to conflict.

We are overwhelmed by all sorts of meaningless misinformation, and the more television and newspapers we have, the more rapidly the virus spreads.

The very idea of universal order also generates strong feelings and any challenge may be sensed as a threat to the whole of existence. Therefore, there is a great reluctance to question notions of universal order.

When this passion is absent, the mind is in a state of low energy and cannot go beyond certain habitual patterns in which it feel comfortable, safe, secure and respectable. It cannot, therefore, face the challenge of questioning basic ideas.

Knowledge is not just an accumulation of information waiting passively. It is an active and often dominant process that controls the general operation of the mind, without our being conscious of it.

When this energy is present we could say that the mind is free of certain blocks that are inherent in knowledge. I want to emphasize that the general action of insight is in dissolving blocks and barriers, which allows the ordinary faculties of the mind, such as reason, to give rise to new ideas and approaches.

It’s clear that any form of knowledge has to be able to yield to fresh perception or, rational behavior is impossible. Knowledge with absolute necessity cannot yield so it distorts, rationalizes, and pushes aside undesired facts so that nothing disturbs the general framework. This means that we are caught in self-deception.

We can say that people have been seeking enlightenment through knowledge without realizing that this has the possibility of creating endarkenment as well. Some knowledge may be enlightening, but other forms are endarkening and we need insight to see the whole thing.

Insight is universal, and its origin or essence is not restricted to great scientific discoveries or to artistic creations, but rather is of crucial significance to everything we do. The negative operation of insight removes blocks and barriers, while the positive is the new perception that this removal makes possible.

The action of insight is immediate, total and not analyzable.

The key point is that everyone must be able to question with great energy and passion whatever is not clear. Its necessary to sustain this questioning in spite of whatever difficulties may arise.

At present insight is not generally given great value in society nor in education. Rather, there’s a very strong bias in favor of accumulating knowledge, and doing this far beyond the point where it actually makes sense, while the spirit of questioning, necessary for insight, is ignored and, in fact, is discouraged if this questioning disturbs strong beliefs.

Imagination may be part of creativity, but without insight, neither imagination nor reason nor anything else is going to be creative.


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