August 2012



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Delphic Maximum #6: Know What You Have Learned

One addition I have here that I haven't seen: It is even more important to remain aware of what you have not learned or perhaps cannot learn. I'm talking about book knowledge, social experience, cultural knowledge, and religious mystery here.

Book knowledge can often be easy to uncover, though depending on the field of study one might find a limit to discovered material as well. Knowing what assumptions one has made or what gaps may exist in one's knowledge is core to moving forward in studies or in applying that knowledge.

Social experience is personal. One can never learn a lesson or teach a lesson to someone else. One can advise or offer suggestions, but there is a true and important limit to one's understanding of other people and other situations. When it comes to judging another's words, actions, or view point it is knowledge and compassion for this lack of knowledge that helps me communicate and understand another, not my actual knowledge on said subject.

Cultural experience is very closely related to social. I think it's important to acknowledge the two are separate but linked. Both obtaining cultural knowledge and knowing when one is out of one's known culture is more important than to me than knowing every cultural nuisance of one's home culture.

Religious mystery is something I think is core to talk about in the Pagan Umbrella. We aren't all mystery religions and we don't all believe in religious mystery, but enough of us do that we need to be familiar with it (at least as familiar as one can be with a secret). Speaking purely for myself, this idea of a mystery faith was almost impossible for me to grasp when I first started exploring paganism. I was raised Christian and the whole idea that there was something one could not or should not teach another about one’s faith or the universe was completely foreign. After all, Christianity isn’t just a revealed faith, but one who’s core tenant is to spread the good word far and wide. The concept that deity might want you to keep quiet or may choose how to disseminate information in a way that one cannot adequately share the knowledge, is beyond imagination.

I followed on in confusion and ignorance. I have to admit I often thought and felt unkind things toward people keeping religious secrets. It seemed to me like there was some kind of exclusive club I wasn’t being let into or some grand information that would make my world view fall into place if I only these people would give up the goods so to speak. Finally one person finally gave me an example of a religious mystery being experiential based and therefor impossible for them to relate to me as I had not had that experience and words couldn’t fully describe or explain the meaning of that experience. This idea was something that finally clicked for me in a way it just hadn't before. Suddenly the world of a mystery religion or a religious mystery made sense to me. It occurred to me, that I might already have a few of my own religious mysteries. I could tell people about the ritual and what I perceived as happening but no words would describe the fullness of my understanding or the way the information was imparted to me. It’s like trying to explain the feeling of white water rafting,. I can talk about the bumps and the sprays of water, the size and shape of the raft, the near misses with rocks, and moments where I was almost thrown out. The person I tell the story to can relate to a certain degree with what I’m telling them so long as I’m descriptive, but if they’ve never been white water rafting or they’ve seen a river or been on a boat, their understanding is naturally incomplete.

The point is that there is a ton I don't know and something the pagan community has given me is that now I'm certain I don't want to know it all and I don't have to know it all. That's a years in the making conclusion and one I have to come back to sometimes when I push too hard, but I'm certain it's not something I ever felt was ok before paganism. So know what you've learned, know what you have not learned, and know that you don't have to and should not learn it all.