It is ironic to see all the information you need to perform a serious practice, and the large number of Taoist texts on the accumulation of knowledge.
In fact, for the student of a Way that incites to live fully the human condition, it is often difficult to manage the wealth of knowledge that piles up during his learning.
At the same time, the main obstacle to his development is often a kind of ignorance.
It must be the Taoist paradox…
In fact, in my tradition, we talk about two kinds of intellectual knowledge: the one which is changing the Way through the understanding of practical details, and the one which spreads like jam, which clutters the mind and inflates the ego.
But we’ll see here, that it is possible to detail a little more.
In fact there are two classifications of knowledge, two levels of knowledge:
- horizontal and vertical
- intellectual and practical
Today, with the internet and the media, the globalization and the “Harper’s Bazaar”, the advice of our grandmother and the countertop discussions, everyone knows everything about anything.
This knowledge is horizontal knowledge.
It is combining the three nonsenses we heard on television to a theoretical knowledge applicable in life. This knowledge can sometimes help during a game of Trivial Pursuit, but rarely to change one’s body or mind.
The main problem with this kind of knowledge is that it resides on top of a more subtle level of ignorance, which gives the impression to understand, but which is in fact just “knowing nothing about everything.”
Vertical knowledge is useful knowledge, on a familiar topic, which allows you to live and apply the intellectual in reality. It is an alchemical work that turns yin the yang, that materializes the unmanifested.
This knowledge is useful to develop one’s vision of the world , to better understand what is the “action”, a stronger link between body and mind.
By the accumulation of details on a topic we study in depth, a vertical knowledge can lead an universal knowledge.
Indeed, if we focus far enough on the vertical knowledge, in different subjects, we surprinsingly often fall back on big common underlying concepts.
The horizontal accumulation of facts, concepts and anecdotes only leads to a need for “more”. It does not allow research or practical application, it does not change you, and proves to be distinguished way of wasting time.
However, it is good to know how to entertain oneself unimportant facts, just to be able to chat and relax one’s mind with trivial pursuits.
The knowledge that is pointed at in the Daodejing is this intellectual knowledge, which is unimportant, this ability to remember, which is mistaken for an important phenomenon.
The knowledge that can improve the understanding of self and mind, the correct usage of one’s body or the search of one’s favorite subjects, for an evolution, is actually a part of the Way.
The way of the mind is the meditation, the shengong, but also the gymnastics of knowledge, a vertical knowledge as you’ll have understood.
There is nothing more precious than information that can transform us: objects become worn, get lost or are forgotten; assets change during the life without impacting our deepest self… Vertical knowledge can not be lost.
The information will digest itself and become ours. It will allow us to move towards a more refined version of ourselves … As a distillation toward an intact, original self.
This is the alchemical process.
“Information is power”