And since you know you cannot see yourself,
so well as by reflection, I, your glass,
will modestly discover to yourself
that of yourself which you yet know not of.
I wrote this book to help liberate people from deeply held beliefs, well-worn grooves of thought about who we are, about the nature of consciousness and what it means to be in relationship. We are now living through a time of great uncertainty about so much that previous generations took for granted. Based on philosophical explorations and personal experiences beyond the borders of academic learning, I offer a radically different view of what it means to be human, of how we know anything about ourselves, about body and soul, and about sharing a world with others.
Radical Knowing explores the nature of consciousness and knowing how we know using different lenses that will help bring this elusive aspect of our lives into sharper focus.
In order to explore consciousness we need to cultivate other ways of knowing beyond reason and the senses. In short, we need to balance “four gifts” that we have been given: the Philosopher's Gift of reason; the Scientist's Gift of the senses (and methodology); the Shaman’s Gift of participatory knowing through feeling; and the Mystic’s Gift of sacred silence or direct spiritual experience. In this book, I focus on two of these gifts in particular, the Philosopher’s Gift of reason and the Shaman’s Gift of participatory knowing. I show that in order to know who we are, and to find deep meaning in our lives, we need to engage in “radical knowing”--by which I mean we need to learn to feel our thinking (not merely think our thoughts). When we are able to do this, we discover that we exist in a web of interconnection. In a very literal sense we are our relationships. Philosophers call this “intersubjectivity.”
I explore this idea of intersubjectivity more fully by identifying three complementary ways to integrate the science and spirit of consciousness. These are subjectivity (first-person meditation and contemplation), intersubjectivity (for example, second-person dialogue), and objectivity (third-person study of the brain and nervous system). I pay special attention to intersubjectivity (abbreviated “I - I” and pronounced “I-to-I”). Intersubjectivity is “knowing through relationship”--a form of non-sensory, nonlinguistic connection through presence and meaning, rather than through mechanism or exchanges of energy. Radical Knowing makes a case for intersubjectivity (“consciousness as communion”) as the foundation for all other modes of knowing.
Throughout the book, I use the power of personal narrative to show how two very different ways of relating to the world and to each other have profound effects on human relationships and our connection with nature. I discuss the distinction between “preconquest” (feeling-based) consciousness typical of indigenous peoples and “postconquest” (reason-based) consciousness typical of modern “civilized” cultures. Many of us may recognize the tension between feeling and reason as a source of misunderstanding and conflict in our personal and business relationships. In this book, we will explore why people who rely more on feeling as a guide for decision-making often seem at odds with people who rely more on intellect and reason. Understanding these tensions will go a long way toward resolving them. We will learn about a new way to balance thinking and feeling, head and heart, in ways that can restore power and even “magic” to our personal and professional relationships.
Finally, we go right to the heart of consciousness by following the example of great sages and mystics. Here, we learn to experience the value and potency of silence by simply being present. In a short chapter on a special form of dialogue developed by quantum physicist David Bohm, I describe an effective way to explore consciousness and relationship communally using the intersubjectivity of sacred silence. Knowing our own consciousness involves “feeling our thinking” rather than habitually “thinking our thoughts.” When we learn to feel our thinking in this way, we allow the wisdom of silence to find its unforced natural expression in appropriate and evocative language.