--- Anthony de Mello, (1932 - 1987)
A story about identifying
the dimensions of knowledge
We all think we know that space has three dimensions which are universal. We all think we know that time has one dimension which is irreversible. Some of us think we know that Einstein simplifed this picture of space and time. And joined all the dots together to present a space-time of four dimensions. We are happy to contemplate the existence of dimensions in space and in time and in their union. Can we contemplate the existence of dimensions to be associated with knowledge? And does it mean anything to associate dimensions with knowledge?
Does knowledge or data have dimensions? And if so, how many, and what are they? Here I am treating knowledge as data and data as knowledge and I am in no manner discriminating between right data and wrong data, correct knowledge and incorrect knowledge, if it seems to be false data or true data, precious knowledge or superficial data.
To answer these questions, let's briefly look at ancient history, and the first appearance of knowledge systems, such as mathematics, astronomy, building and other disciplines. These systems of knowledge commenced with some form of discovery of knowledge by someone, whom in many cases is often called the discoverer of this or that knowledge.
At some subsequent point, the discoverer of that knowledge was able to transmit the discovery to another in words. The oral tradition of the passing down of words without the technology of writing, from one generation to another is known to have been employed for an unknown length of time prior to the development of written symbols. Even then, after the technology of the written symbols became available, the transmission of knowledge also involved communications by speech.
The technology of writing then, gradually made possible the storage and the preservation of words and ideas by which in some cases the originators first announced their discovery. The technology of writing commenced with clay tablets, and branched out into the use of papyrus (paper) scrolls, before knowledge of how to make the codex (the book) became widespread in the 3rd and 4th centuries. In modern times, we have seen writing being preserved in the electromagnetic storage systems associated with computer technology.
Thus knowledge appears to have had in a very real historical sense - in all cases:
The dimensions of sophisticated knowledge
||The originator, inventor, "mid-wife" of the knowledge was a living being
||The first mode of transmission of knowledge between the originator and her
or his living peer associates, and between them and all subsequent preservers.
It is not known for how long an oral tradition may have operated before writing.
||The second mode of transmission of knowledge between the originator of the
knowledge and the present day's recipients of knowledge is the written symbols
and the written word. The written sybolic form has undergone massive technological
evolution since clay tablets. We see the written word move to papyrus, to the codex (4th),
to the printing press (15th), to the computer technology (20th).
||Some of the world's major "Holy Writs" are as follows: (1) The Veda and Upanishads
of the Hindu religion, (2) the Buddhist literature of the Buddhist religion,
(3) the Hellenistic literature related to Pythagoras, Plato and the Graeco-Roman
pantheon focussed on Zeus, Apollo and Asclepius, (4) the Avesta compilations of
the Zoroastrian religion, including the writings of Mani, (5) the New Testament
literature of the Christian religion and (6) the Koran of the Islamic religion.
All knowledge is ultimately only known by the self. The first dimension of the spoken word and/or the second dimension of the written word are representations that appear to be external to us. They are agents in a process of self-discovery.
It may be useful to employ two examples, one which follows the concept of the model of the silent sage, who seeks the path of self-enlightment and the concept of the model of the industrious scientist, who seeks to obtain knowledge of the nature of the external world. The Buddhist-like model of the silent sage indicates that the efforts are directed inward by whatever natural faculties are available to this model. In this model if there are no words forthcoming from the silent sage, and there are no written works produced as a result of his or her activity, then we are unable to receive any knowledge from that person in these modes.
On the other hand, the model of the scientist may be explored by considering the preservation of some of the items by which science does its business, such as - for example - the Pythagorean theorem. The theorem that is often ascribed to Pythagoras (a property of the sides of a right handed triangle, A squared plus B squared equals C squared) may have been originated earlier in India.
That the originator of this element of knowledge called the Pythagorean theorem was Pythagoras or someone else does not really concern us here. Let us for the moment be content that there was an originator of this element of knowledge and that it has been preserved into our time of the 21st century. We can be reasonably well assured that the theorem was passed down using the oral tradition for many epochs, and that it continued to be used, in addition to the encapsulation of the Pythagorean theorem in a written and/or symbolic form.
Today we are used to concept of the model that knowledge has been in some manner encapsulated in the written word. If we have attended schools and universities we are also impressed by the fact that this external written, printed and hardbound knowledge is presented to us by teachers, and professors and instructors who use the spoken word.
The entire expected outcome of this entire process is quite simple. It is to re-awake inside of us the original idea which first occurred to the person who first identified and "saw inside himself - (perhaps herself!) - that conceptual knowledge which is known as the Pythagorean theorem. As students of knowledge, when we first approach the Pythagorean theorem we are not aware of what it is, and what its properties are, and how they apply, what are their bounds or domains if any, etc, etc. At some stage, the student becomes aware of what the theorem implies, and obtains some form of first hand experience with this element of knowledge. That first primal knowledge of the student may of course be then expanded upon, in examination of how the Pythagorean theorem applies to surfaces which are not flat for example. In any case, it is this primal knowledge which -- I am arguing here -- may be considered to have been transmitted between the original "knower" and each student, in this century, in past centuries and in future centuries.
In addition to "knowing knowledge" there is therefore a further dimension or mode in which it may be generally perceived by which the knowledge of things can be transmitted to the personal beingness space of students of knowledge, and that is the spoken word. Our entire world to a certain extent consists of vast memories of the spoken word, in many contexts, which in some are resonant and powerful, and in others are inactive and dormant.
It is therefore appropriate to consider that the spoken word is a further dimension over and above beingness. Beingness can remain silent and contemplative in meditation without speech. Yet there is that property in effective speech by which students of various forms of knowledge can be inspired to rediscover, as it were, elements of knowledge for themselves in a personal fashion.
We might therefore summarise the further dimension of speaking about knowledge, or its elements, or about anything at all, as the First Sophistic. In a specific sense the first dimension of knowledge over and above the zeroth - beingness - can be simply termed the First Sophistic.
As to when in the history of mankind the earliest written words were assembled, it is beyond the scope of this article to explore in any depth. Perhaps the Indus seals of the Indus-Sarasvati civilisation are the oldest written knowledge? Perhaps in fact the oldest knowledge is scratched into bones, or upon cave walls in ochre in Australia and elsewhere. Again, the real source of written knowledge is not essential to this study.
In all appearances we all seem to be comfortable with the fact that knowledge can be to a certain - perhaps quite limited - extent written down on media, over and above the human voice. In an historical sense we may consider that knowledge was first written in clay tablets until this technology was superceded by the papyrus scroll. In turn the papyrus scroll was superceded by the technology of book - the codex - perhaps about the same epoch that the "Second Sophistic" was happening in the ancient Graeco-Roman empire. Various forms of codices were explored before Gutenburg (again - or earlier inventors) arrived with the printing press. At this time written knowledge became very "book oriented".
Modern technological innovation has seen an epoch were writing of knowledge in books is being superceded by the writing of knowledge in computer systems and large organisational databases. Using modern advances knowledge (data) is being written by means of computer technology into various media, such as the electromagnetic storage systems of databases, compact disks and removable media, flash drives, and other (multimedia) devices.
All this represents the Second Dimension of knowledge - the written form, and to a certain extent there is little difference between a series of E-Books just released onto the internet by an author of 2009 and the Nag Hammadi Codices - an archaeological find of ancient buried and "Hidden Books" from the mid-fourth century. Written knowledge is thus argued thus to represent the second dimension of knowledge - over and above the "Beingness" of the student and the teacher and the originator (whoever ...), and over and above the spoken word.
To a certain extent, that's it. These three dimensions of knowledge (data) commencing and ending with gnosis - via scientific or meditative effort and enquiry - span gnosis, and speech and writing. They have done so since antiquity, continue to do so through to the 21st century and its internet, and appear to appropriately span the dimensions of knowledge in the future.
However, because it is also common knowledge to many students of life and of knowledge that a certain class of students and their teachers (and perhaps not the originators themselves in this case!) make the claim that there are certain writings which have been written on this planet in its ancient history which -- for one reason or another -- are to be considered elevated over and above all other writings.
Therefore, if for no other reason other than to consider the merit (or otherwise) of examining an additional dimension to written knowledge in this study I have defined a further dimension to be discussed.
Some of the world's major "Holy Writs" are as follows:
(1) The Veda and Upanishads of the Indus Hindu religion, (2) the Buddhist literature of the Buddhist religion, (3) the Hellenistic literature related to Pythagoras, Plato and the Graeco-Roman pantheon focussed on Zeus, Apollo and Asclepius, (4) the Avesta compilations of the Zoroastrian religion, including the writings of Mani, (5) the New Testament literature of the Christian religion and (6) the Koran of the Islamic religion.There are of course more modern examples.
A loose collection of definitions of Gnosis.
Webster's 1913 Dictionary Gno´sis n. 1. (Metaph.) The deeper wisdom; knowledge of spiritual truth, such as was claimed by the Gnostics. WordNet Dictionary Noun 1. gnosis - intuitive knowledge of spiritual truths; said to have been possessed by ancient Gnostics gnosis n. spiritual knowledge or insight. gnostic, a. pertaining to knowledge or gnosticism; n. adherent of gnosticism. gnosticism, n. religious belief of those claiming gnosis or that freedom was possible through gnosis alone Gnosis - the greek word for knowledge, has several uses: Among the gnostics, gnosis was the "knowledge of the heart" or "insight" about the spiritual nature of the cosmos, that brought about salvation to the pneumatics - a group of humans that could achieve this insight. Related Words intuition Related terms agnostic gnosiology Gnosticism prognosis - Prognosis is a medical term to describe the likely outcome of an illness diagnosis - Diagnosis (Greek: d?????s?, from d?a dia- "apart-split", and ???s? gnosi "to learn, knowledge") is the identification of the nature of anything, either by process of elimination or other analytical methods. Diagnosis is used in many different disciplines, with slightly different implementations on the application of logic and experience to determine the cause and effect relationships. cognitive, cognizance, cognoscente, incognito Agnosticism (from the Greek a, meaning “without”, and gnosticism or gnosis, meaning “knowledge”)