Being a Knower Rather than a Believer

“Ye say, ye believe in Zarathustra? But of what account is Zarathustra! Ye are my believers: but of what account are all believers! Ye had not yet sought yourselves: then did ye find me. So do all believers; therefore all belief is of so little account. Now do I bid you lose me and find yourselves…”

~ The character of Zarathustra in Thus Spake Zarathustra,
by Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900),
German philosopher


Currently about 300,000 persons die each day, the vast majority having built their lives on beliefs which never were personally verified. Some believed in reincarnation; others believed in life eternal in heaven or hell. Still others believed that death brings extinction. Hundreds of millions believe in the teachings of Christ, Buddha, Lao Tze, Krishna, Muhammad, Zoroaster, etc….

Most believers take to their graves beliefs which simply resulted from the accidents of their births. They took on the beliefs taught them by the families and societies into which they were born. Were you born to Hindu parents? Then most likely, you were taught to believe in Krishna. If you had left the womb in Saudi Arabia, then most likely you would have been raised a Muslim. But is an accident of birth a rationale upon which to develop an authentic life?

Some persons will think not. They will question their beliefs. They will explore different belief systems, and weigh different knowledge claims against the evidence of their own personal experience. Then they will consciously choose whether to believe and, if so, what to believe. I value the authenticity of personally determining one’s beliefs. Yet still such persons are only believers.

Neither am I concerned about what we believe, nor am I concerned that we believe, rather I am concerned that we may be content only to believe. A belief is nothing more than a string of words asserted to be true. The words themselves are not the truth, just as the finger pointing at the moon is not the moon.

Our lives are suspended amid a Mystery that we are seemingly incapable of entirely comprehending. Genuine teachers of the past and present claim to have glimpsed more deeply into the nature of that Mystery. They have expressed their experience in symbols called words – words conditioned by their language, personal history, culture, and era. The idiosyncratic collection of vowels and consonants are not the “truth”; the living experience they attempt to represent is.

Knowing that beliefs and teachings are simply symbols presumably pointing the seeker to an experience of the Mystery, it seems folly to be content only with simply founding a life on symbols rather than upon the experience they represent. Contemplative traditions throughout the world affirm that it is possible, here and now, to personally experience the deeper aspects of the Mystery.

Such teachings are not given to gather believers, but to foster Knowers. Will you become one?


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