Knowledge vs Experience

Chapter 50 The Dixie Taoist: Sovereignty*

The Strategy: Striving for knowledge can be just another effort of ego desire. Wisdom is gained through experience and self-reflection.

The Application: Rein in the ego’s striving for knowledge and power. Cultivate wisdom and knowing through awareness and experience. By being mindful and self-aware, real understanding and growth occur through actual experience.

knowledge is power”1

An internet search for the phrase “knowledge is power”, will result in millions of hits.2 It is accepted as such a given truth, that it may be difficult for you the reader to be able to consider an alternative perspective. However, some older and wiser readers will understand the concept that wisdom gained through experience is true power and “book knowledge” is at best just the beginning.

As in so many cases of cultivating sovereignty, this Tao wisdom begins with being aware of how the ego has influence over our feelings and actions. This chapter takes a look at the strategy of being aware of ego’s role in the pursuit of knowledge, and the Tao wisdom of cultivating a deeper wisdom for success in life. The harmony is found in the balance between knowledge and experience. It is not knowledge itself that is harmful, but the obsession and striving to possess it that goes against the Tao wisdom.

End sagacity; abandon knowledge

The people benefit a hundred times…

Excerpt from Chapter 19, Tao Te Ching

The pursuit of excessive knowledge is rife with ego traits.

  • The ego is insecure and seeks knowledge as a means of security.
  • The ego is vain. To be seen as filled with knowledge is to be admired by others.
  • The ego is impatient and often lazy. It has a desire to circumvent experience and gain understanding through the gain of knowledge.
  • The ego has an insatiable hunger and always wants more. Enough is not enough, and more is better. Sometimes it does not know when to stop pursuing knowledge and start living.
  • The ego is ignorant and believes that knowledge supersedes experience.

When I finished my first enlistment in the Navy, I enrolled in a technical college after returning home. I studied electronic technology and loved every minute of it. After graduating, I went back into the Navy and couldn’t wait to get to work as a technician/operator on radio equipment. My head was filled with all sorts of theory and math formulas that I couldn’t wait to try out in the real world.

When I got to my first duty station which was a ship, I was immediately given a piece of equipment to troubleshoot and repair. After spending too many hours trying to figure out what was wrong, my supervisor came to me to find out what the problem was. I was trying to apply all the classroom knowledge instead of using my instincts and common sense. In a moment of humility, I asked my supervisor what I was missing. The answer and solution turned out to be so simple. He had never had the benefit of a college education but he did have hundreds of hours of experience with this equipment. His experience over the years gave him the real power of knowing on a deeper level how to keep our communications equipment operating with efficiency. I had almost no experience and the knowledge that I had gained in school fell way short of practical application. As I began to use my instincts and senses to help me troubleshoot and repair, my skill improved quickly. With experience, the book knowledge fell into place and made sense on a theoretical level. The hands-on experience along with the “book learning” found a harmony with each other and my skills improved dramatically.

Accumulating knowledge can also set up the illusion of knowing. Having acquired information, the ego will take on an attitude of “I’ve got this”. The Tao Te Ching warns us

“To know that you do not know is highest

To not know but think you know is flawed”

Excerpt from Chapter 70 Tao Te Ching

Knowing is defined as information or skill gained through education and experience. Both can be valuable attainments. The wisdom of this lesson is about having sovereignty over the ego so that your reasons for seeking knowledge and experience is grounded in virtue.

If I have a little knowledge

Walking the great Tao

I fear only to deviate from it

The great Tao is broad and plain

But people like the side paths…

Excerpt from Chapter 53, Tao Te Ching

The Tao as a spiritual and philosophical path has the potential to transform your life in the most positive way. As the sovereign, you must control the ego so that you do not stray from the path. Having a little knowledge can inflate the ego and you can lose your way. The way is “broad and plain”, yet you can become distracted in the pursuit of knowledge for ill gain and get lost on the side paths.

As someone who practices mindfulness, you can pay attention to your intentions and desires of the ego even if you meander along the way. The pursuit of knowledge for the sake of ego gain is a distraction or “side path” to be careful of. The ego, the great pretender, can even use the Tao as a pursuit of knowledge. Your understanding of Tao principles and virtues is best learned through experience. The best experience is found by the application in everyday life. Later, when you reflect on what your observed and experienced, your knowing will be on solid ground.

1Possibly Francis Bacon;

2As I write this chapter, google reported 31,900,000 hits with variations such as “information is power” etc.

 The Book Is scheduled for release Summer of 2017